Battle of Coventry
The Truce of Tukayyid brought the Clan invasion to an abrupt halt and deprived a new generation of Clan warriors of the chance to prove themselves in battle. Clan Jade Falcon's drive through the Lyran Alliance toward the planet Coventry was Falcon Khan Marthe Pryde's means of blooding her fledgling warriors and proving the Falcons' viability to the other Clans in the wake of the devastating Refusal War.
The Jade Falcon attack also galvanized an important series of events among the Houses of the Inner Sphere. In response to the Clan incursion, Katherine Steiner-Davion (also called Katrina Steiner) authorized a defense force to battle the Falcons on Coventry. When Clan Jade Falcon soundly defeated the Coventry Expedition Force (CEF), Katrina deployed the Coventry Relief Force, which she had initially assembled to defend Tharkad. The Relief Force was joined by a multi-House and mercenary force, led by Prince Victor Steiner-Davion. Together the two armies successfully kept control of Coventry. Katrina had hoped to take advantage of the Clan attack to discredit her brother; instead, the successful defense solidified Victor's position as a skilled politician and military leader and encouraged him to pursue his plan to mount an Inner Sphere attack on the Clan homeworlds.
In December of 3057, the Clans met on Wotan to elect a new ilKhan. Because Clan Jade Falcon had brought the charges of genocide against former ilKhan Ulric Kerensky that had sparked the Trial of Refusal and led to Kerensky's death, the Falcons assumed that the next ilKhan would come from their ranks. Khan Vandervahn Chistu, believed to have slain Ulric honorably in battle, seemed the odds-on favorite.
The tide turned against the Falcons, however, when Vlad of the Wolves emerged from the rubble of a collapsed building three days after the battle on Wotan and revealed that Chistu had defeated ilKhan Kerensky in a treacherous and unClanlike missile strike. Vlad challenged Khan Chistu to a Trial of Refusal in an attempt to undo the Falcon's Absorption of the Wolves; against the wishes of the Falcons' senior Khan, Elias Crichell, Chistu accepted. In a brief, one-sided battle, Vlad killed Chistu on Government Hill - the same spot where the Falcon Khan had killed Ulric Kerensky.
The outcome of this Trial overturned the Falcon's questionable Absorption of the Wolves. Desperate to retain a remnant of his Clan's tarnished honor Khan Elias Crichell created a Clan he called Jade Wolf, releasing to this new group all the Wolves who had been absorbed into Clan Jade Falcon. Vlad, however, was intent on preserving the Wolf Clan. He charged Crichell with complicity in Ulric's death and challenged the Khan to a second Trial of Refusal. Skillfully manipulating the Clans' complicated system of ritual, trials and honor, Vlad outmaneuvered Crichell into accepting the challenge. He also denied the Khan the right to name a second and easily killed the aging Falcon leader in combat. Vlad of the Wolves then rejected the Jade Wolf name and declared that he would form a new Wolf Clan.
Though Clan Jade Falcon survived the deaths of its
leaders, the losses of Chistu and Crichell dramatically weakened the Clan, which had not
yet begun to recover from the brutal Refusal War against the Wolves. To keep her shakey
Clan alive, newly elected Falcon Khan Marthe Pryde immediately began devising a plan to
demonstrate that the Jade Falcons remained a force to be reckoned with.
On 30 January 3058, Clan Jade Falcon forces crossed into
the Lyran Alliance. In a series of lightning attacks, the invaders struck Engadine,
Neerabup and Bucklands. Though the Lyran defenders stood little chance against the technologically superior Jade Falcons, they force the attackers into fierce, bloody battles for each world. Some, like the Bucklands Militia (which was little more than a social club for retired veterans), had no 'Mechs at all and cobbled together a fighting force by fighting heavy machine guns and sheets of armor plate to AgroMechs. These jury-rigged 'Mechs did little to slow the Clan juggernaut.
In an omission strangely out of character, Archon Katrina Steiner did not make a realm-wide broadcast to her people in response to this outrageous incursion into the recently christened Lyran Alliance. In fact, following a plan known only to her closest advisors, the Archon had traveled to the Clan Occupation Zone just before the Falcon advance. There, she intended to meet with representatives of Clan Smoke Jaguar and forge a Lyran/Jaguar alliance to help her defend her secessionist realm against Davion and Wolf forces.
Katrina never reached her would-be allies, however. On 12
February 3058, her JumpShip - the Boadicea - arrived at a jump point above the Smoke
Jaguar-held world of Kiamba at precisely the same moment that a Clan Wolf planetary assault force was returning to Wolf JumpShips stationed at the same point. The Wolf Clan forces easily captured the Boadicea and took Katrina as a bondswoman to Clan Wolf. In a skillful accommodation to these unforeseen circumstances, Katrina demanded an audience with the Wolf Khan, Vlad Ward, to whom she proposed a Lyran/Wolf military alliance against their mutual enemies.
Back in the Lyran Alliance, General Nondi Steiner and Mandrinn Tormano Liao, acting for the absent Katrina, made an unprecedented political move. In an effort to keep Victor from learning the true extent of the difficulties in the Alliance, they imposed a total news blackout, shutting down the flow of information from the Falcon invasion zone. Liao and Steiner both feared that if Archon Prince Victor discovered that the Falcons had again invaded what he still viewed as Fed Com territory, he would launch a major military effort aimed at pushing the Falcons out of Lyran space. Any success on his part would weaken Katrina Steiner's position in the Alliance and strength Victor's claim to be the rightful ruler of the realm that had once been part of the Federated Commonwealth.
Acting quickly, Liao and Steiner placed House units
on alert along the Falcons' line of advanced and opened negotiations with several
mercenary units in anticipation of placing them in strategic defensive positions.
Extrapolating from the Falcon attacks already launched, the Mandrinn and the general
accurately predicted the Clan's ultimate target - the planet Coventry.
In early March, Clan Jade Falcon proved Mandrinn Liao's prediction true. Three Star Lord Class JumpShips phased in at one of Coventry's so-called pirate points, from which Overlord-C and Lion Class DropShips detached and began in-system runs before the last transport dropped out of hyperspace.
The first blow of the campaign fell on Port St. William spaceport. DropShips belonging to the Second Falcon Jaegers Cluster made a high-speed pass over Coventry's main port and disgorged their cargo of OmniMechs and Elementals in a clear area north of the city. This unopposed combat drop benefited the Falcon troops inexperienced in such maneuvers, at the cost of precious minutes spent organizing their forces and moving toward the spaceport. The defending Third Battalion of the Tenth Skye Rangers, under Kommandant Heinrich Oheler, used that time to move into position in and around the spaceport. As the Falcons advanced, Kommandant Oheler quickly realized he faced a numerically superior force; he called desperately for air support to even the odds but received a curt refusal.
Oheler then switched frequencies and managed to contact Battery A of the Rangers' First Artillery Support Company just as the gunners were setting up their weapons. The Kommandant ordered the First to fire a defensive rolling barrage against the advancing Clanners. Forty seconds later, the opening shots of the Coventry campaign struck-but they didn't hit their intended targets. Either the rattled Kommandant had called in the wrong coordinates or the fire director relayed them incorrectly to his gun crews, but the first spotting rounds dropped short by more than a hundred meters, landing in the streets adjacent to the spaceport. One 125-millimeter shell crashed through the roof of a warehouse that held drums of high-grade petrochemicals. The resulting explosion destroyed the building and shattered windows for several blocks. Ironically, twenty-two of the thirty-eight civilian casualties of this engagement were a direct result of this one, off-target spotting round.
Unable to see the fall of artillery from his position at the center of his battalion, Kommandant Oheler sent a mechanized infantry platoon, under Senior Corporal Michael Doss, well forward of the Lyran lines to direct the artillery fire. Doss established his observation post on the roof of a spaceport hotel and quickly called in adjustments, choosing to request fire-for-effect rather than wasting precious time on additional spotting rounds. Within seconds, five Long Tom shells shrieked over Port St. William and burst above the Clan lines, showering the advancing OmniMechs with improved conventional-munitions bomblets. The bombs annihilated two light 'Mechs and nearly a full Star of Elementals. However, the Falcons barely paused in their advance.
Doss and his platoon continued to radio in adjustments until a Koshi belonging to Falcon Trinary Bravo detected the spotter's electronic signature and began pumping short-range missiles into the building. Several infantrymen were wounded, including Senior Corporal Doss. The platoon leader passed command of his unit to his second, Corporal Janice Vree, and ordered them to withdraw. Doss, along with radioman Private First Class Sigisimund Cole, remained behind, directing the artillery until his observation post was destroyed around him.
Despite the valiant efforts of the infantry, the
Falcons managed to push the Lyran defenders out of the spaceport. Kommandant Oheler
ordered his troops to make a fighting withdrawal and regroup northeast of the city.
Port St. Williams
Even as the Falcon Jaegers began their assault on Port St. William, the second arm of the Coventry invasion force was dropping onto its objective, the Coventry Military Academy, The invaders assigned the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster to capture the academy. One infantryman of the Lyran Alliance Armed Forces (LAAF) quipped bitterly that the battle resembled nothing so much as a brawl between schoolchildren led by assassins.
The fighting on the academy grounds was spirited, erratic and bloody. Rather than moving on to new targets, academy cadets continued to hammer defeated Falcon 'Mechs into junk. Unblooded Falcon warriors engaged in close-quarters melees with their opponents, rather than taking advantage of their 'Mechs' superior range and firepower. Meanwhile, experienced warriors from both sides, who normally served as instructors and unit leaders, waged a deadly battle of precise long-range fire and unforgiving 'Mech-to-'Mech ambushes.
In the end, Clan technology and training defeated the academy cadets. Kommandant Luther Rohorson ordered the Cadet Cadre to break off fighting and withdraw to a pre-designated rally point five kilometers east of the academy, and the cadets left the burning college in the Falcons' hands. Most of the buildings, including the administration and science centers, took heavy damage or were destroyed. Analysis of battleroms indicates that the cadets deliberately destroyed the science and administration buildings to keep vital records out of enemy hands.
A handful of exhausted trainees, some wounded and
in shock, apparently misunderstood Rohorson's order and withdrew westward into Port St.
William. There, the shaken cadets blundered into the victorious Falcon Jaegers and fought
a series of wild, savage melees. Beaten but unbroken, the cadets destroyed one damaged
Ryoken and crippled a light Uller, though they paid dearly for this final act of defiance.
Six cadet 'Mechs and thirty-two infantrymen retreated into Port St. William; by the time
the survivors surrendered to the Jade Falcons, four of the 'Mechs had been destroyed and
nineteen infantrymen killed, most while launching an unsuccessful "kneecapping"
attack against an Uller C armed with an A-pod. The Falcon Jaegers took the surviving
cadets as bondsmen.
Coventry Metal Works Processing Plant
The third prong of the Jade Falcon invasion of Coventry thrust directly at the single most valuable prize on the planet: the Coventry Metal Works main processing plant. Some of the most desperate, savage and bloody fighting of the campaign too place in this battle. Khan Marthe Pryde assigned the task of capturing the plant to Star Colonel Devin Buhallin's Gyrfalcon Eyrie Cluster. Like the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster, Buhallin's assault force was made up of green, unblooded warriors. For many, the invasion would serve as their Trial of Position. Pryde and Buhallin planned to insert the Gyrfalcons by grounding the Cluster's DropShip just outside the factory complex, rather than risking the raw trainees in a combat drop into the broken, boulder-strewn terrain surrounding the installation.
The full strength of the Coventry Aerospace Defense Force (CADF) was dedicated to defending the Coventry Metal Works. As Clan DropShips filled the morning sky with fire and smoke, aerospace fighters of the CADF's Gamma Flight swept in to stop them. In their first pass, the defending fighters claimed a Clan Broadsword Class DropShip. The Gyrfalcons launched their own interceptors in response, and missiles, fiery explosions and shattered aerospace craft soon filled the rainy sky over the processing plant. Reluctant to conduct landing and offloading operations under fire, Star Colonel Buhallin ordered his DropShip pilots to land at an alternate LZ more than two kilometers west of the plant; this change delayed his scheduled attack by nearly half an hour.
On the ground below, Kommandant Claudia Peyman, a semi-retired veteran of the Clan War commanding the Second Coventry Donegal March Militia, took advantage of the slight delay and moved her troops into blocking position between the Clan landing zone and the Metal Works. Informed of the strength of the approaching Clan force by one of the surviving Gamma Flight fighters, Peyman ordered her troops to hunker down in their prepared positions. She knew that her militia company, made up of green reservists and retired veterans piloting outdated 3025-model 'Mechs, was no match for Clan OmniMechs. Peyman didn't know that the bulk of the enemy force was made up of second-line 'Mechs, led by a handful of OmniMechs piloted by the Star commanders.
As the Gyrfalcons closed on the militia's position, Gamma Flight's fighters returned. Several strafing runs and point strikes put two of the advancing Clan 'Mechs out of action before they laid eyes on Peyman's 'Mechs, and Gamma Flight might have turned the tide of battle if the Falcons' tighter support had not returned to drive off the defending aerospace assets. When the invaders moved within three hundred meters of her front-line units, Kommandant Peyman gave the order to open fire. Several Clan 'Mechs staggered under the rain of destruction, including a Peregrine that collapsed under the sheer destructive power of four PPC bolts.
In response to the defenders' all-out barrage, the Clan
warriors broke up into small groups and charged each militia position individually. Star
Buhallin's Man O' War A and Kommandant Peyman's Banshee-S traded shots and physical blows for three long minutes. The savage brawl was interrupted when a militia Firestarter, piloted by MechWarrior Randal Fetsko, Jr., attacked Buhallin from the rear. Spraying the Star Colonel's 'Mech with burning napalm, Fetsko caused the Man O' Wars heat to spike up so sharply that the Clan officer was forced to eject from his burning 'Mech. Consumed with battle lust, the green MechWarrior made no attempt to capture Buhallin. Instead, Fetsko turned his Firestarters heavy machine guns on the dismounted Clan officer.
Fetsko had no time to rejoice in his first kill, nor had Kommandant Peyman time to berate the reservist for his wanton slaughter of a helpless opponent. At that moment, a Clan variant Lucifer fighter strafed the militia lines, destroying the Firestarter and killing its pilot outright. The same attack breached the cockpit armor of Kommandant Peyman's Banshee. Badly wounded and knocked senseless, Peyman slowly bled to death in her toppled 'Mech.
Buhallin's and Peyman's deaths symbolized the bitter struggle for the refinery. Rather than one large, pitched battle, the fighting occurred in a series of two-and four-'Mech skirmishes, with victory going to the most brutal combatants. In the end the Gyrfalcons won a Pyrrhic victory; they forced the militia to withdraw, but sustained more than 65 percent casualties.
As the defenders of Port St. William, the Coventry
Academy and the Metal Works withdrew in a strategic retreat, several Jade Falcon
attempted to run down and destroy the surviving Inner Sphere forces. While many of these attempts failed, a few search-and-destroy parties located and easily defeated their demoralized enemy, though a few commanders stalled the Clan attackers long enough for their forces to slip away into Coventry's hinterlands.
Reinforce and Regroup
After the initial attack on Coventry, the fighting tapered off sharply. The Inner Sphere defenders were too badly shot up to mount an effective counterattack, and the Jade Falcons were busy ferrying in new troops to replace their substantial losses. Those defending forces not engaged during the first few days of fighting quickly set about waging guerrilla war against the invaders. The most successful of these 'Mech-equipped guerrilla units was the Second Company of the Tenth Skye Rangers' First Battalion, led by Hauptmann Caradoc Trevena.
When the Jade Falcons arrived, the First Battalion, including Trevena's Second Company, was on detached duty at McKenzy Molecular Smelter, more than 100 kilometers from the Rangers' home base at Port St. William. As soon as word reached the battalion command post that the Falcons had landed in his operational area, the First Battalion's politically connected but incompetent commander, Kommandant Horst Sarz, got roaring drunk. Trevena immediately assumed command of the battalion; he led the unit away from the smelter and into the complex of caves, mine tunnels and deep canyons that lace Coventry's Cross-Divide Mountains. From this warren, Trevena led the battalion in a series of daring raids against the Clan invaders. These hit-and-run actions forced the Jade Falcons to assign increasing numbers of combat units to the hunt for the elusive raiders.
The First Battalion's guerrilla campaign culminated in a daring two-pronged attack against a Falcon supply base near Collivette, which was garrisoned by elements of the Fifth Battle Cluster and a column of second-line 'Mechs from the same Cluster. Led by Leftenant Isobel Murdoch, the first Ranger raiding party smashed aside the tiny force of light second-line 'Mechs and Elementals guarding the supply depot. They swiftly gathered up several truckloads of supplies and ran for the tunnels before Clan reinforcements could arrive. At the same time, Trevena led two full 'Mech lances into a narrow pass and, smashed a force of second-line Falcon 'Mechs that he had lured into the trap with false sensor readings.
When the First Battalion regrouped in its
subterranean, headquarters, Murdoch told Trevena that the Clan warriors, seemed to be
pulling back at the supply base. To Trevena's way of thinking, this indicated one of two
things. Either the Jade Falcons had decided to abandon Coventry, or the Fifth Battle
Cluster was regrouping to face a more capable opponent. When Trevena glimpsed the fiery
streaks of DropShips burning, their way through Coventry's outer atmosphere, he realized
that his second guess was correct. A relief force had arrived.
Unknown to the Jade Falcons or the beleaguered defenders of Coventry, the bitter struggle for possession of the planet was about to take another twist. Mandrinn Tormano Liao, acting in Archon Katrina's name, had summoned Wolf's Dragoons' Delta and Gamma Regiments, along with the Eridani Light Horse's First Regiment, to the Lyran capital of Tharkad. Under Liao's plan, the mercenary groups would spearhead a Lyran attack on Coventry, if circumstances permitted. If the Jade Falcons conquered that planet and began moving on Tharkad, the mercenaries would help defend the capital.
As a hedge against failure, Liao also hired Waco's Rangers to safeguard Tharkad, despite the Rangers' hatred of the Dragoons. The former commander of Waco's Rangers, Wayne Waco, had sworn to kill any Dragoon his unit captured in revenge for the death of his son, John, at the hands of a Dragoon MechWarrior. Consequently, anti-Dragoon sentiments still ran high among the mercenaries. Mandrinn Liao, confident of the Rangers' personal loyalty to him, chose to rely on the unit to spirit him safely away from Tharkad should the operation fail and the Archon lay the blame on his head.
After abruptly returning from her secret mission in Clan space, Katrina approved of Liao's plans but insisted that Waco's Rangers accompany the relief force. On 10 April, the newly christened Coventry Expeditionary Force (CEF) launched its first effort to drive the Jade Falcons from Coventry.
The First Light Horse Regiment was the first relief unit to land. Using the same pirate point that the Falcons had used during their initial assault, the Light Horse's JumpShips Falkirk and Bosworth arrived in-system, released their DropShips and jumped out-system in a textbook example of the fast-insertion pass. The mercenaries' fast-moving Overlord and Leopard Class DropShips encountered no opposition until Falcon defensive fighters engaged them as they slowed for their high-altitude drops.
The Falcon defenders struck too late to prevent the
landing, however. Elements of the First Falcon Striker Cluster engaged the mercenaries in
a seesaw battle but withdrew shortly before 1600 hours, when the last Light Horse DropShip
grounded in the city of Lietnerton.
Enter the Wolf's Dragoons
About the time things were winding down in the Light Horse's drop zone, Wolf's Dragoons were beginning their landing. In an uncharacteristically brazen maneuver, Colonel Shelly Brubaker of the Dragoons' Delta Regiment broadcast a batchall to the Falcon defenders. The Dragoon officer declared herself to the Jade Falcons and announced her intention to attack and destroy the spaceport at Port St. William using only one of her three battalions.
Moments later, Star Colonel Creed Mattlov accepted Brubaker's challenge and announced that two Trinaries of the Twelfth Falcon Regulars Cluster would meet the Dragoon unit on the flatlands east of the city. Demonstrating the strict adherence to Clan battlefield protocol typical of the Jade Falcons, Mattlov allowed the Dragoon DropShip Bayard to land uncontested. Leaving her Second and Third Battalions in place to guard the landing zone, Brubaker led her First Battalion toward the spaceport.
The First Battalion's forward 'Mechs easily handled the light and medium OmniMechs awaiting them outside the spaceport. Then they charged into the facility. For nearly fifteen minutes the Dragoon 'Mechs ran rampant through the spaceport, burning supplies, destroying equipment and repair facilities and generally wreaking havoc. Then the balance of the Clan force arrived and destroyed three Dragoons 'Mechs with its opening volley. A brutal, close-quarters battle ensued. Falcon and Dragoon 'Mechs lashed out with missile, cannon and laser fire and battered one another using pieces of broken girders as monstrous clubs. Most historians agree that the melee at Port St. William spaceport was the most brutal fighting of the entire Coventry campaign. Observers speculate that the Falcons' long-standing hatred of the Wolf Clan in general, and the Dragoons in particular, led to the sheer ferocity of their attack.
Less than twenty minutes later, Colonel Brubaker called for reinforcements. That action freed Star Colonel Mattlov from his original bid, and he immediately called for reinforcements also. Within minutes, both commanders began calling in air and artillery support as the battle escalated. Soon more than one hundred fifty BattleMechs and a similar number of armored and unarmored infantry were engaged in a grisly, merciless struggle for the spaceport.
In the end, the Dragoons withdrew. Though the First Battalion took serious losses, they had achieved their objective by destroying enough of the spaceport to deny the Falcons its use. Star Colonel Mattlov also claimed victory because his Falcons had forced the Dragoons to break their bid and withdraw.
The Falcon Ambush
Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights were the last
task force units to land on Coventry. The CEF Command's decision that the Rangers and the
Eights should make DropShip landings, rather than the more glamorous but dangerous combat
drops, created some tension between Rangers' Commander Wayne Rogers and the Dragoons'
Brubaker until the Light Horse's General Adriana Winston managed to calm things down.
Shortly after 1125 hours on 10 April 3058, the Rangers and the Eights forced their way on
planet. During their hotly contested approach and landing, the Rangers destroyed eight
Falcon OmniFighters and five front-line OmniMechs. The Crazy Eights destroyed two more
OmniMechs and an unknown number of Elementals.
Several small skirmishes developed between the Jade Falcons and the Inner Sphere forces in the week after the arrival of the CEF, as mercenaries and Clan troops tested one another's strength. The CEF sent a task force to help the remains of the Skye Rangers, Coventry Academy cadets and Coventry Militia break out of a pocket around the town of Whitting.
In the gray predawn hours of April 15, Private Regina Walford of the Tenth Skye Rangers met up with a Waco's Rangers scout lance. For the past several days, Hauptmann Trevena of the Tenth Skye's First Battalion had been moving his battered unit through Falcon-occupied territory, intent on joining the reinforced defenders. When Waltord's Jenner loomed up out of the dim, rain-soaked twilight, Lieutenant Donna de la Kalb of Waco's Rangers mistook the battle-scarred machine for a Clan Fire Falcon, a relatively new model seen sporadically among the Jade Falcons. Fortunately for the Skye Rangers, the alarmed shout of de la Kalb's assistant lance leader, Sergeant Dale Freize, kept de la Kalb from ordering her troops to fire as the Skye 'Mechs materialized out of the thin drizzle.
With the arrival of Trevena's First Battalion, the
majority of Coventry's defenders were concentrated in Lietnerton. After some deliberation,
command staff decided to launch a three-pronged attack against the Falcons at Port St. William. The battle plan called for the Dragoons and the Eridani Light Horse to make a direct attack against the Jade Falcons defending the spaceport city. The remnants of the Coventry Militia, the Academy cadets and the Skye Rangers would swing westward, screening the mercenary column from a possible flank attack by the more mobile Clan formations, The third arm of the operation would be a strike behind enemy lines. Formed around Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights, this arm would move through the wild, hilly region known locally as the Dales. Once in position, the task force would launch a surprise attack on the Clan rear. The unenviable job of guiding the Rangers through the rough hills fell to Caradoc Trevena and his recon company. The Waco's Rangers' phase of the operation would be carried out quietly, with no engagement of enemy forces until the Dragoons/Light Horse attack was well under way.
Unknown to the Inner Sphere planners, however, the Jade Falcons had laid plans of their own. Clan intelligence suggested that Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights had been left behind in Lietnerton to guard the CEF base. Star Colonel Arimas Malthus found this highly questionable, considering the well-known hatred between the Dragoons and the Rangers. He reasoned that the reports of the Rangers' presence in Lietnerton must be incorrect and speculated that the Rangers were actually moving through the Dales to attack the Falcons from behind.
To counter this threat, Falcon commanders skimmed 'Mechs and Elementals from each of the three Galaxies protecting Port St. William and formed these units into two Clusters. The first, code named the Harrier group, was made up of light OmniMechs. Heavy and assault elements comprised the second Cluster, christened the Red Tail group. The two groups laid an ambush according to a plan devised by Star Colonel Malthus. Though the plan stretched the strict definitions of Clan honor, Khan Pryde recognized its tactical soundness and allowed it to go ahead. However, she forbade the Falcons to use such deceptive tactics in any future engagements.
The deadly effectiveness of Star Colonel Malthus's
plan became apparent in the early hours of April 21. As the Dragoons/Light Horse column
struck at the main Jade Falcon lines, the Falcons' Harrier group engaged the
Rangers/Eights column near the Dales, drawing the mercenaries into a large grassy field
between Port St. William and the Dales. Once the last Ranger 'Mech had entered the
clearing, the OmniMechs of Red Tail group unleashed a barrage of missile fire from their
positions behind the aspens surrounding the field. That initial strike destroyed five
Ranger machines, and the advancing Falcon 'Mechs battered the remaining mercenaries. Only
a delaying action fought by Hauptmann Trevena's Tenth Skye Rangers, which had been
assigned to perform reconnaissance duties for the mercenaries, along with the timely
arrival of the Dragoons' Delta Regiment, prevented the annihilation of Waco's Rangers and
the Crazy Eights. In the end, the Falcon ambush destroyed 85 percent of the Rangers' and
The loss of the Waco Rangers column, along with the disruption of the main Dragoons/Light Horse attack and the Falcon success against the Coventry Militia's pinning force, prompted the CEF commanders to abandon their attempts to recapture Port St. William and pull their troops back to Leitnerton.
For several weeks, the Jade Falcons kept up the pressure on Lietnerton's embattled defenders with frequent small, probing attacks. Then on May 8, the Jade Falcons launched an all-out attempt to drive the CEF from Coventry. Elements of the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster, which had made a quiet night march through a heavy thunderstorm to reach the defenders' positions, open ended the renewed assault on Leitnerton with a strike at the exhausted Coventry Militia and Skye Rangers just after 0630 hours. Despite the massive Falcon attack, the worn-out defenders refused to abandon their posts. Kommandant Jasper Greer called in artillery from the Rangers' one remaining Thumper battery, which rained an uneven mixture of high explosive, ICM submunitions and FASCAM rounds on the Clanners. The ragged barrages slowed down the Falcon 'Mechs, but the Clan advance continued. Realizing that the Coventry Militia's front was about to collapse, General Winston dispatched a flight of aerospace fighters to support the shaken troops. Eventually, the combined artillery and air strikes prompted the Falcons to withdraw. The fighting had lasted four hours and claimed the lives of nearly one hundred soldiers on both sides, yet the battle lines remained unchanged.
On May 9 the Falcons again attacked, striking at the Eridani Light Horse along the southern edge of the town. This time, they preceded their attack with an artillery barrage of their own. Clan artillery spotters proved unfamiliar with the proper procedures for laying down protective fire, however, and they failed to provide accurate coordinates and fire corrections to the Falcon artillery units. Consequently, most of the Clan artillery barrage sailed over the Light Horse revetments and fell among the deserted houses and apartments of Lietnerton's suburbs.
The Light Horse gunners made no such mistakes, however. First, they hit the advancing Trinary Alpha of 305th Assault Cluster with a volley of long-range missiles. Several OmniMechs staggered under the missile strike, but the Falcons pressed onward. Moments later, under the direction of Colonel Sandra Barclay, artillery rounds began dropping among the charging Falcons. Some of the Falcon batteries realized that their assault force was in danger and began firing on the Light Horse artillery units. In response, Barclay quickly ordered the First Support Company's artillery units to redirect fire at the Clan gunners. Leftenant Rodney Mullenix's gun crews quickly bracketed the Falcon's artillery units. Within moments, the experienced artillery crews had destroyed three mobile Long Toms that the Falcons had captured from the Tenth Skye Rangers' main base and forced the remaining Falcon fire-support assets to withdraw.
To replace the lost artillery support, Star Colonel
Arimas Malthus ordered Star Captain Janice Folkner's aerospace fighters of Trinary Echo to
provide close air-support for his advancing 'Mechs. Already on station, Folkner
immediately rolled her Sulla into a steep dive and unleashed a volley of laser and PPC
fire that destroyed the Guillotine of Trooper E. M. Catanese. (Miraculously, Catanese
survived with only a small rip in the shoulder of his cooling vest.) Barclay responded to
this new threat by summoning the Light Horse's own aerospace fighters. Before long, a
pitched, close-quarters battle developed. Five hours later, the surviving Falcon warriors
limped back across the smoldering, wreckage-strewn field. Once again, the Clan had thrown
its best troops against the CEF line, and the Inner Sphere forces had beaten them back. As
before, both sides suffered heavy casualties.
Anticipating a third Falcon attack against the Dragoons in the center of the CEF line, General Judith Niemyer of the Coventry Militia and General Winston planned a massive preemptive air strike against the Clan rear area for the morning of May 10. The commanders reasoned that a major attack against the marshaling areas just behind the Falcons' defensive perimeter would disrupt any new Clan offensive against the encircled town. The original plan called for Wolt's Dragoons to launch a ground assault as soon as the fighters were off-station.
No sooner had the last bomb- and missile-laden
fighters staggered into the air, however, than an unexpected storm front closed in.
Despite the threatening weather, the desperate CEF commanders ordered the fighters to
carry out the mission as planned. Then Fate played its second card of the day. Even as the
first bombs fell on the Clan positions, an undetected OmniFighter patrol swooped in to
intercept the attacking Dragoon aerospace craft. Alerted to the presence of the enemy, the
CEF fighters turned to face the Falcons, quickly downing two Clan interceptors and
scattering the rest. During the momentary respite, the CEF aerospace units scrambled all
their remaining fighters, some with half-full fuel tanks or partially expended magazines.
Within minutes, Jade Falcon, Skye Ranger and Coventry Militia fighters filled the sky in a
confused, swirling dogfight reminiscent of the mass fighter engagements of
twentieth-century Terra. The stiff Jade Falcon resistance forced many Inner Sphere
fighters to drop their air-to-ground ordinance for the sake of increased maneuverability,
effectively spoiling the planned CEF air strike. Consequently, the CEF command staff
called off their ground assault, and the siege of Lietnerton wore on.
As the battle for Coventry ground down to a stalemate, the military leaders of the Lyran Alliance and Federated Commonwealth took additional measures to neutralize the Clan threat. In response to Archon Katrina Steiner's requests for help against the Clan incursion, Thomas Marik and Sun-Tzu Liao had sent the Knights of the Inner Sphere and the Harloc Raiders to aid in the defense of Tharkad. Now Katrina sent these 'Mech units, along with the Eleventh Lyran Guards and three more Wolf's Dragoons regiments, to Coventry to relieve the CEF.
At the same time, the Archon requested help from her
brother, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion of the Federated Commonwealth. Apparently, Katrina
purposefully understated the strength of the Falcon forces on Coventry in the hope that assume control of the entire Commonwealth.
Conveniently, Victor was attending a ComStar-hosted war game exercise on Tukayyid, along with other Inner Sphere leaders, when the fighting broke out on Coventry. He and his fellow rulers had followed the reports of the fighting closely; when he received Katrina's request, the units on Tukayyid-the First Genyosha, the First St. Ives Lancers and ComStar's Invader Galaxy- agreed to join the Davion Heavy Guards under Victor's command. Along with two Kell Hounds regiments from Arc-Royal, the relief force comprised six full BattleMech regiments.
Several historians have noted the unusual nature of
the relief force. Many believe that Victor's ability to mobilize such a large and varied
force illustrates the statesmanship his critics had long claimed he did not possess.
Indeed, some of the warriors in that force had been trying to kill one another only a few
years earlier, and a few commentators speculated that the willingness of the participants
to set aside past quarrels augured good things to come. However, a few critics, mostly
Lyran separatists, saw the assembly of the diverse relief force as Victor's attempt to
fashion himself First Lord of a new Star League.
The final military strike of the Coventry campaign was a small-unit action at the mountain village of Whitting, on 30 May 3058. This final battle stemmed from a plan devised by Hauptmann Trevena, who proposed that a small force of CEF 'Mechs and infantry pass through the mine tunnels under the Cross-Divide Mountains and raid the Falcons' rear command area at Whitting. (According to Trevena, the Falcons had not located all the tunnels.) Simultaneous frontal and flanking attacks on the main Falcon line would distract the Clanners and pin them in place, thus enhancing the CEF's chance of success. The raiders would kill or capture as much of the Clan command staff as possible and gather intelligence. The simple, clear plan had attainable objectives, and the CEF commander cautiously approved it.
With the CEF's supplies running low and no relief in sight, the Whitting operation would likely have been the last offensive the defenders could have mustered. But even as CEF command was discussing the raid, the defenders received another boost to their sagging morale when Leftenant Ricardo Copley, the former quartermaster of the Tenth Skye Rangers, was located among a group of refugees picked up by Dragoon security patrols. For unknown reasons, Copley had secreted a cache of ammunition, spare parts, field rations and medical supplies in one of the caves that Trevena's battalion had been using to harass the enemy during the early days of the invasion. The sudden influx of materiel gave the battered Inner Sphere troops a measure of renewed hope.
With rejuvenated spirits, the CEF launched its attack on Whitting shortly after dawn on May 30. Under the overall command of Colonel Brubaker, the under strength Dragoons Delta Regiment, the remnants of Trevena's recon company and a "tactical-response unit" of dismounted MechWarriors and infantrymen made their way under the Cross-Divides. At the appointed time, Brubaker launched an all-out attack against Whitting's defenders and drew them off to the north, while Trevena's smaller, more mobile force slipped into the city from the south.
The attack went off better than planned. Most of
the Jade Falcon garrison pursued Brubaker's troops into the field, leaving only a handful
of 'Mechs and Elementals behind to defend the town. Trevena's troops easily brushed aside
this light force, swept straight up to the town hall and ransacked the Falcon
headquarters. Less than forty minutes later, the raid was over. The attack yielded a
wealth of information concerning the Falcons' purposes for launching their assault on
Lyran worlds, as well as an important prisoner-Star Colonel Arimas Malthus, the Clan
officer who planned the ambush of Waco's Rangers.
After the Whitting raid, the CEF debated how to carry on the fight despite their dwindling numbers, short supplies and slim chance of victory. Eventually, the CEF chose to break up into small guerrilla bands, withdraw into the mountains and harass the enemy until a relief force arrived.
The issue became moot on June 5, when Prince Victor Davion arrived with a coalition task force under the nominal command of ComStar Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht (the coalition members rightly believed that Focht's status as victor of Tukayyid would help the force project an image of strength to the Falcons). On the recommendation of exiled Wolf Clan warrior Ragnar, the former Prince of the Rasalhague Republic, Victor deferred his opening batchall bid and invoked safcon for the Inner Sphere force in his official capacity as second-in-command. The tradition-bound Falcon leaders had little choice but to respect the request. Khan Pryde granted the arriving forces permission to ground their DropShips unmolested in the vicinity of Lietnerton, and the two leaders agreed to meet at Whitting four days later to conduct a formal batchall. Then, just before breaking off communications, Khan Pryde declared her intention to defend Coventry with everything at her disposal.
After exchanging force reports with the Falcons per Clan tradition, Victor began to formulate his counter-bid. He realized that the coalition force and the Falcon units on Coventry were evenly matched, and both faced a long and bloody campaign if the coalition tried to wrest the planet away from the Falcons in battle. However, if the coalition force merely rescued the shattered remnants of Coventry's defenders, it would be acknowledging defeat-a defeat that would be just as devastating to the Federated Commonwealth, the Inner Sphere, and himself as if he had fought the Jade Falcons and lost. Katrina would use his withdrawal in the face of the enemy as a political tool against him. The tenuous bonds between the Federated Commonwealth and the Draconis Combine would evaporate, as anti-Davion agitators rose up against Coordinator-designate Hohiro Kurita for his seeming alliance with the Combine's age-old enemy. Capellan Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao would take the pullout as a sign of weakness, and would likely use his strengthened ties with Captain-General Thomas Marik of the Free Worlds League to recapture the neighboring St. Ives Compact. Even ComStar would not escape the firestorm. ComStar's rivals, the fanatical Word of Blake, would trumpet Focht's role in what would likely be called a failed attempt to make Victor First Lord. And even if the coalition force defeated the Falcons, the fighting would undoubtedly decimate the force and leave the Inner Sphere vulnerable to attacks from other Clans. Unable to withdraw and facing a bloody, protracted campaign whose outcome was far from assured, Victor struggled to formulate a strategy.
Ironically, Victor had no way of knowing that Khan Marthe Pryde was facing a similar dilemma. Shortly after the arrival of the coalition task force, Khan Pryde received a message from Clan Wolf's Khan Vladimir Ward, who congratulated the Jade Falcons on their impressive drive into Lyran space and casually informed Pryde that he was moving Wolf Clan troops into position to strike at Falcon-held worlds in the Clan Occupation Zone. If Khan Pryde kept her troops on Coventry to face the Inner Sphere force, the Wolf Clan would surely defeat the small Falcon garrisons on the threatened Occupation Zone worlds and capture them-a development that would cost the Falcons prestige among their fellow Clans. If she transferred the Falcon troops from Coventry to bolster the defenses of the threatened planets, she would leave Coventry to the coalition without a fight-which would undoubtedly leave Pryde and the entire Jade Falcon Clan dezgra; disgraced among the Clans.
Uncertainty and apprehension hung over both sides
of the battle line during the following days and reached a feverish pitch when Victor
battle-ravaged town of Whitting to meet with the Jade Falcon Khan. Then Victor did what no Clan warrior had ever expected from an Inner Sphere barbarian-he offered the Jade Falcons hegira, the traditional right of a defeated enemy to leave a battlefield with his forces and honor intact. For a long moment, the Falcon Khan stared unseeingly into the distance; then, with supreme dignity, she accepted the offer. In that moment, the campaign for Coventry came to an end.
In accordance with Clan custom, all prisoners were exchanged following the Falcons' acceptance of hegira. The bondsmen returned by the Clan included Colonel Wayne Rogers and a number of his mercenaries presumed to have died in the ambush of Waco's Rangers. Hauptmann Trevena, the misfit commander of the equally misfit First Battalion, was offered a position with Wolf's Dragoons. However, he respectfully declined it when Prince Victor Steiner-Davion offered him the rank of Leftenant General in the Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth and the job of reviewing all future operations of the Inner Sphere's anti-Clan coalition task force.
The acceptance of hegira gave Khan Marthe Pryde a face-saving excuse to pull her troops back within the Jade Falcon occupation zone, thereby effectively forestalling Wolf Khan Vlad Ward's threatened assault on Falcon holdings. This retreat, seemingly so out of character for such an ardent Crusader Clan, immediately set off a round of intense speculation among Inner Sphere observers as to the Jade Falcons' real motives and ultimate intent. So far, however, none of the wildly swirling rumors appears to have any substance. Whatever the Falcons are up to remains a well-kept secret.
On Tharkad, Katrina Steiner's reaction to the bloodless victory was less than joyful. Victor had survived; indeed, he had never been at risk. Furthermore, his offer of hegira made him the peacemaker, a role that Katrina coveted for herself. Perhaps most important, the success of the Inner Sphere coalition on Coventry demonstrated that old enemies could be brought together as allies. The lessons of Coventry prompted Victor to lay new plans to carry the fight to the Clan enemy.