“After the defeat of the ork warlord called ‘Klawtoof,” Tau forces advanced quickly across the Great Continent of Al’gel II. But such success was not to last. Ork resistance stiffened, and the pace of progress slowed to a crawl.”
“It was not that Tau forces failed to make gains, it was simply that the war-like orks fought ‘toof and klaw’ for every meter of ground. The fighting only made them stronger, bigger, and more enthusiastic for the next battle.“—“The Complete History of the Al’gel Campaign” by Aun’el Mor’kan Tal’is’ta, Ethereal caste, Dal’yth Sept, (689-776.M41).
* * *
Excerpt of “The Complete History of the Al’gel Campaign,” regarding the fighting of 738-741.M41
The Tau offensive in early 738.M41 made significant gains in land conquered, but it was not successful enough to break the back of ork resistance. The fighting continued and, although the Tau managed to limit their casualties, the orks offered a tenacious defense that, without warning, would turn into a ferocious counterattack that would severely test the Tau defenses.
It was an ugly campaign—one that alarmed the Tau High Command. A stalemate settled over the battlefield, and the campaign’s demands for reinforcements and war material were so great that there was frequent talk of replacing Commander Broadsword.
Concern that Broadsword’s removal would hurt morale, and the High Command’s focus on military threats elsewhere on the empire’s borders, ultimately shielded the commander from official censure. But, by mid-741.M41, Broadsword understood that the status quo could not continue.
As would prove true throughout the campaign, Broadsword responded to the stagnant military situation by completely overhauling the Tau’s operational tactics. What was needed, he believed, was a new approach that would be difficult for the orks to counter.
This time, he decided to set a trap.
As Broadside understood matters, what was needed was a battle that would result in overwhelming casualties, so much so that the greenskin line could not hold—and Tau troops finally could break through to the northern coast of the Great Continent.
Carefully examining the topographical features across the continent, Commander Broadsword decided to center his campaign in the region of a large body of water known to the orks as “Lake Kra’gor.”
As stealthily as possible, the 11th Armored Cadre was pulled from the line and deployed behind the 3rd and 4th Hunter Cadres, just south of Lake Kra’gor. This force was reinforced by the 3rd Assault Contingent and the 14th Combat Engineer Contingent, both forces reorganized into fully mechanized units.
On 6 831 740.M41, the 3rd and 4th Hunter Cadres launched their attack. Their goal: to open a gap and allow the 11th Armored Cadre to race to the shores of Lake Kra’gor.
After an extensive artillery bombardment, supported by aerial attacks by nearly every Tau aircraft on the planet, the 3rd Assault Contingent led the 3rd and 4th Hunter Cadres in an assault of the ork line.
Tens of thousands of Fire Warriors soon found themselves entangled in fierce fighting, and Tau forces gained only 2,000 meters during the rest of the first day. Little progress was made the second day, as well, although the 4th Hunter Cadre managed to outflank a large ork force that advanced recklessly across open ground, and elements of the 14th Engineer Contingent slipped through the ork lines.
Attacked from the rear, this ork force was destroyed—and a 6,.000-meter gap in the ork lines was created.
As the 4th Hunter Cadre and its two supporting contingents fought to widen this gap, the 11th Armored Cadre finally was free to push through and seize as much ground as possible. Using the most sophisticated ground-air coordination yet achieved in the campaign, the 11th Cadre raced forward, as Tau aircraft bombarded the cadre’s flanks to mask the armor’s advance and discourage ork counterattacks.
Despite its successful breakthrough, it took the 11th Armored Cadre nearly ten days to fight its way the 280 kilometers to Lake Kra’gor. But further progress was impossible. As with every previous Tau attack, the intense fighting was drawing the attention of the toughest and fiercest ork warlords on the planet, and they rushed their ork mobs to the fighting around the lake.
As enemy opposition mounted, the tactical situation looked bleak for the Tau’s continued advance. The 11th Armored Cadre had advanced along a narrow front, creating a long but thin bulge in the ork lines. This “neck” of Tau-held territory was a vulnerable position for the Tau, as a powerful attacks on the these flanks could easily cut off the 11th Armored Cadre from the rest of the Tau army.
Despite their primitive intelligence, the cleverest ork warlords quickly recognized this vulnerability. Although sizable ork attacks continued to focus on the tip of the Tau advance (and the 11th Armored Cadre), more and more greenskin assaults targeted the flanks of the bulge with the intent of dividing the Tau army.
But not all was what it seemed. As the 11th Armored Cadre had advanced, Commander Broadside had gone to work fortifying the flanks of the lengthening bulge. Earthen trenches, Tidewall emplacements, and sensor towers were installed by the 14th Engineer Contingent, and tens of thousands of troops and tanks were deployed in these installations.
This defense line held—but barely. For more than a month, the orks hammered at the bulge. One of the major warlords, Greenclaw, struck the eastern flank of the bulge with a mechanized force of Warbuggies, Trukks, and Battlewagons, while a sizable force of Killa Kans and Deff Dreads later attacked the western flank.
The latter force was particularly effective, forcing the Tau defenders to withdraw six kilometers before reinforcements helped stop the xeno advance.
By 6 063.741.M41, it was estimated that nearly 2 million orks had abandoned their positions elsewhere on the continent and rushed to the fighting around the bulge. Without regard to obvious strategic concerns, the greenskins simply were eager to deploy where the fighting was most intense.
To ensure this ork movement continued, Commander Broadside ordered the rest of the Tau line to remain relatively quiet.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Al'gel Campaign