Adventures in Sumatra

The Sultan of Malacca had been engaged in intermittent war with the neighbouring Samudera Pasai Sultanate of Sumatra for many years. With a new campaigning season opening the Sultan of Malacca dispatched another army this time under Raja Ibrahim to further enforce his claim on the Sumatran coast. A sizeable army was gathered and then transported to Sumatra in a large fleet. 

The armies that would finally take the field after several weeks of campaigning along the coast were similar. Both consisted of a core of warriors which were supported by archers and skirmishing troops including many armed with blowpipes. Most importantly both armies fielded a number of elephants. The Sultan of Malacca however dispatched a large number of heavy siege guns and great determination these were dragged along the coast where they subjected a number of Sumatran towns to horrific bombardments. Lacking the resources of Malacca, and abhorring the slow and dangerous modern artillery arm in the field, the Sultan of Samudera had recruited a large body of light cavalry. In all each army now field some 100 elephants and 10,000 to 11,000 infantry along with artillery or cavalry.

Eventually the Sultan of Samudera offered battle and deployed his army near the northern coast. Deploying his army on an open plain he awaited the enemy. The Malaccans, under command of the young Raja Ibrahim eventually arrived on the field of battle only to find their deployment was constrained somewhat by a large wood on their right and a rocky hill on their left. Unperturbed Raja Ibrahim deployed with elephants and artillery in the centre and his infantry to each flank. Raja Ibrahim, perhaps due to his youth was confident his artillery would overwhelm and after a hearty lunch ordered his guns forward to engage the enemy. However, this was his first independent command and his mastery of the sometimes fickle elements of his army were not fully known to him.

Below, the view from the Sumatran lines.

Indeed, he was so focussed on his artillery arm that he failed to send our scouts, or observe the strength of the army opposite. Now to his surprise a large group of ships now arrived on his right and from these ships almost 3000 Sumatran warriors poured on to the beach. Worse, they now moved at great speed against the Malaccan right flank.

Simultaneously the Sultan of Samudera Pasai ordered forward his left flank and to the clash of gongs, horns and drums the elephants and infantry advanced to reinforce the attack on the Malaccan right. 

Above the Sumatran troops as they pour onto the beach while below, the Sultan moves forward against the Malaccan right supported with more infantry and pachyderms. The purple parasol marks the Sultans position.

Raja Ibrahim now was in almost panic as he struggled to realign his army. While his artillery belched fire at the advancing Sumatrans, causing a large number of Sumatran elephants to rout, his infantry and his own elephants moved to the left as best they could. Soon any superiority due to artillery was lost in the chaos.

The Sultan however maintained the pressure and pachyderms of both armies were engaged in to the fighting.

Above and below the clash on the Malaccan right flank. The Sultan engages the at the head of 50 elephants (purple parasol) while Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol) commanding 100 elephants counters.

Below, another view of the battle on the left, this time showing with more clarity the infantry struggle in the steaming and dense jungle.

The elephants, being fickle at best, were easily unsettled and in the ensuring engagements Malaccan elephants routed three times. Each time they fled from the advancing Sumatran elephants they risked destroying their own formations. The youthful Raja Ibrahim was learning another valuable lesson in the art of war!

Above the Sultan, having caused half of the Malaccan elephants to flee, engages another group under Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol). These in turn fled only to be engaged in combat with Sumatran skirmishers armed with blowpipes.

Some of the Malaccan elephants were rallied and thrown back in when the beasts had been calmed. However, the Sultan kept up a determined pressure and led his pachyderms ever deeper into the enemy lines. Soon his 50 elephants had broken a large body of Malaccan archers then turned and pressed their attacks on the flank of the enemy artillery.

Below, the Sultan engages the Malaccan artillery by falling on their flank. He is supported valiant Sumatran infantry.

No quarter was given and in the ensuing bloody combat gunners and artillery were trampled mercilessly. No more would these guns belch smoke and iron at his fortresses along the coast, no more would they fire at the elephants and warriors of Sumatra.

In disbelief Raja Ibrahim fled as his army broke in rout. How could the once proud expedition be so soundly beaten? How would Malacca recover from such a tragic blow? But playing on his mind the most was what fate would await him on his return to Malacca?

6 thoughts on “Adventures in Sumatra

  1. Another very interesting AAR Keith. Two unusual and less frequently fielded armies. BTW, who manufactured the figures?

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