Sunday, 17 December 2017

Hereford1938 AVBCW Autumn Big Game 2017 (PART FOUR)

"Good news!" Cousin Verity of the Verity LDV had gatecrashed the Commanders' Conference, grinning from ear to ear. "I've made a little local truce with Councillor Cracknutt!"

Mid-sentence, the Bishop's jaw dropped open. Just as he had been about to outline his plan for the inevitable destruction of the Royalist forces....somehow he managed to recover his composure. Commandant Lasalle looked equally thunderstruck. There was a low growl of disapproval from the gathered Anglican staff officers. Loud firing and the sound of explosions from Storm Leader Giles' "Rural Redoubt" told everyone that he was already under sharp attack from the "true traitor", Captain Morgan, and his forces. The issue was clearly in substantial doubt.

"A deal authorised by his commander, Storm Commander Giles, presumably? Or is Councillor Cracknutt equally as insubordinate?" The Bishop gave Verity his best stern look.

"Oh no" grinned Cousin Verity, oblivious. "Just between us. We thought we'd have a crack at those Communists, you see, instead of each other. Giles has no idea of the plan just yet."

"Sacre bleu!" Commandant Lasalle exploded into a volley of gallic oaths.

"Well," said the Bishop, "then at least we are not bound." As if on queue, the LEAF's mortar fired another round, dropping neatly into Councillor Cracknutt's much beloved section of hockey stick waving schoolgirls. A sharp shriek told the conference it had found at least one target.

"M'sieu..." Commandant Lasalle was clearly struggling to contain himself as he sought to persuade Cousin Verity. "M'sieu.......les Noirs.......c'est un opportunite d'or! C'est l'opportunite de la guerre entiere!" He gestured towards the scattered command maps, illustrating the hopelessness of Councillor Cracknutt's tactical position. "Cet offre de n'est pas fou - il est desespere!"

Verity looked stubborn, insisting mutinously, "Well, we both want to have a crack at those Commies.".

"Have you not this morning taken the Oath of Stubborn Loyalty, sir? And are you not," enquired the Bishop icily, "a relation of staunch Captain Verity, true Anglican and courageous allied commander of the Forces of Ludlow in our past engagements?"[1]

"That's so," shrugged Cousin Verity, still grinning. "But, don't you know, I've always been rather the black sheep of the family?"

The Bishop sighed. Verity was clearly unpersuadable. Without the co-operation of the still unengaged Verity LDV, all of the Anglican plans for the complete destruction of the Royalist forces were unworkable. Commandant Lasalle had thrown down his kepi in disgust, and was busy jumping up and down on its flattened khaki remains in a vain attempt to control his anger.

The Command Telephone rang. It was Storm Commander Giles' Signals Section, now passing on an authorised offer of temporary truce. The gathered staff officers burst into laughter, joining in a spontaneous chorus of "Robin Hood....Robin Hood...."[2]

"Well, I'm not going to fight Cracknutt...." Cousin Verity shuffled backward, pouting.

The Bishop raised his crozier, calming the assembled staff. "It's no good, I'm afraid. It is, as it always has been, in the Hands of God. The Verity LDV will left wheel and head towards the ungodly forces of Winter's Communists. We shall maintain a watching brief upon this so-called temporary truce, for as we all know, the word of a Fascist can hardly be said to be the word of a gentleman...."

And so it was that, having spent all morning marching towards Councillor Cracknutt's forces, the Verity LDV spent all afternoon marching towards Comrade Commissar Winter's forces - as it turned out, in an ultimately vain attempt to "get into action".

But more of Cousin Verity and LDV later, for all eyes were now focussed on the staunch left flanking Brichester LDV, the Anglican's first line of defence against the forces of the Faithless Communists. The Command Conference adjourned to the upstairs rooms of the Gardener's Cottage for a better view of the new battlefield.

"Goodness, sir" A staff officer was straining through his binoculars. "Goodness me. I really do believe that Winter's going to try it."

A long shot of the afternoon battlefield. As the Brichester LDV deploy in the right foreground (supported
by a section of Ludlow Infantry on the cricket field behind) the slavering hordes of Godless Communism
gather for one almighty infantry charge across endless open ground. In the right background can be seen
Captain Morgan's last reserves, the Hereford Police Watch Committee, reinforcing the North Herefordshire
 LDV's continuous attacks against Storm Commander Giles WYRD forces.
A horde of Communist infantry - all that Winter could muster from his own forces - appeared over a slight crest and began a long distance charge towards the dug in Brichester LDV. Comrade Gollumroo's field gun unlimbered to provide artillery support, but his infantry seemed suspiciously more sluggish in advance. ("Oh yeth, yeth, vethy good, this way we don'th get shot up like Winter's lot, yeth....we justh blow things up from a safe distance, oh yeth, hehehehe...mebbe I take over aftersh....hehe.....")

"Three platoons against three platoons, sir. No roads, and an awfully long way to go, too....all over open ground against troops behind hard cover. I don't fancy Winter's odds at all." There was a murmur of general agreement amongst the Anglican staff. "And of course we can use our Somua in support, Verity's on his way, and all of our platoons are still in reserve...."

A sudden buzzing alerted everyone to the source of Comrade Commissar Winter's confidence - a ground attack by the hitherto unknown Red Air Force! [3]

The Red Air Force introduce themselves to the Hereford VBCW. Below can be seen the Brichester LDV
deploying into strong positions within a walled enclosure, and the Bishop's Somua in support.
Disaster! A strafing attack on the Brichester LDV causes ground casualties, but the Red Aircraft
is riddled by return fire. As a 1/1 scale ground observer passes a silent commentary upon
proceedings, the Red Aircraft turns over and starts to dive downward, on fire and out of control.....
The smoking remains of the Red Aircraft. The forces of Storm Commander Giles take a minute's break
from their woody warfare to observe the results of the Brichester LDV's firepower.
The Bishop eyed the smoking remains of the once proud Red Air Force. "That" he said, "would seem to be that."

But still the Communist infantry came on, no doubt conscious of Winter's NKVD machine guns behind them. (although the Ecclesiastical Intelligence Service have since discovered that the NKVD machine guns were also positioned behind Winters himself.)

"Je crois que le NKVD - c'est preferable, n'est-ce pas?" joked Commandant Lasalle, as the Brichester LDV opened up on the advancing horde.

"They shall come on in the old way." said the Bishop. "And we shall see them off in the old way. I think I can leave this with you, my dear Commandant. I have a sermon to write."

And so it was that the afternoon was dominated by two great battles : the forces of "the true traitor", Captain Morgan, in a heavily forested death struggle with Storm Commander Giles on the right, and the forces of the faithless Winters against the gallant Brichester LDV on the left. As Councillor Cracknutt hurried to support his Storm Commander (encouraged by the LEAF's Behemoth Destroyers warily shadowing his armoured forces from behind, just in case), Cousin Verity slogged across the battlefield by way of promised aid to Brichester. Save for the engagement of the LEAF Somua in support of the Brichester LDV, and the readying of reserves, it could be truly said that the Bishop's forces remained "the calm, still centre of a turning world".

On the right, The Battle in the Woods. Fascists vs Cricketers and Policemen
On the left, the Communist Horde meet Professor Campbell's Marvellous Mechanical Man in close combat.... the long files of the Verity LDV advance forward in support. Cousin Verity's "Lunchtime Purchase" of
The News of the World 1938 Competition Winners infantry section can be seen towards the top of
the photograph, denoted by their outsize patriotic flag.
"News, gentlemen?" The Bishop had emerged from the Gardener's Cottage towards the late afternoon, the first draft of his sermon satisfactorily completed. The Anglican staff officers gathered round.

"It seems that Captain Morgan has bought it, sir - sometime earlier this afternoon. The North Hereford LDV then came under the command of a NKVD Commissar, but it seems he went west shortly thereafter. Goodness knows what's happening within those woods really; seems that Storm Commander Giles has been wounded, too [4]. Councillor Cracknutt's forces are just going in now."

"Any infractions of this afternoon's truce ?"

"None at all, sir. A pleasure to deal with Cracknutt, especially after Comrade Gollumroo. I don't think I could have coped with much more of that slobbering..."

"Yes, I see. And how fares Brichester?"

"Heavy casualties, sir. Gollumroo's 18 pdr has been particularly effective this afternoon. But rock solid, Brichester, and the first wave of the Communist charge has been decimated. I don't think Winter can have a lot left, frankly. And the Verity LDV are now finally moving into the front line, relieving Brichester's positions. We still have all of our forces in reserve, of course, but the light will clearly go very shortly. The Reds are obviously played out."


"What ho, Bishop!" A cheery wave from Cousin Verity, continuing his tradition of insouciance as he sauntered past. "Just off to take on those Commies, a little later than I thought, but there we are. Ta-ra now!"

It was but a minute later, and but a 100 yards down the roadway, that the sky darkened directly over Cousin Verity and his entire Headquarters Section, including his medic and Standard Bearer [5]. The Bishop saw Verity glance up in surprise and shock, just as he and the entire Verity HQ disappeared in a blinding flash and roll of explosive thunder and smoke. Comrade Gollumroo's 18pdr had struck once again, leaving the Verity LDV leaderless. Hehehe...yeth! [6]

"The judgment of the Almighty" murmured the Bishop, regarding three pairs of smoking Lobbs' boots and Verity's empty suede loafers rather dubiously. "One of you staff chaps will have to take over command of that LDV...."

But night was already falling. The twin battles of the afternoon were coming naturally to an end. On the right, Councillor Cracknutt's fresh forces finally expelled the last remnants of the North Herefordshire LDV from the Rural Redoubt. On the left, Comrade Winters had finally run out of Communist lives to throw away heedlessly, and Comrade Gollumroo's "second wave" seemed disinclined to make any forward progress. As the remains of the Royalist forces retired southward in some kind of order, the Battle of Berrington Approaches was over.

But not for the evening editions of Ludlow's newspapers, which could add yet more dramatic headlines:







Postcript: The groaning figure of Storm Commander Giles lay on the makeshift operating table set up in the grand dining room of Berrington Hall, now a casualty clearing station. The BUF Surgeon Commander eyed his thigh wound dubiously. "This will never do" he said to the assembled medical team. "We'll have to cut off those damned green tights before anything else..." Giles levered himself up on one elbow. "Don't put me out! No anaesthetic! I've got to report to de Braose before anyone else gets the chance! It's a matter of life or death!" He groaned and settled back once more. A nurse approached  with some surgical scissors. "Now, now, Commander, this will only take a minute...."

The lights went OUT. The operating theatre was plunged into utter darkness. "I'm afraid its the electricity company, Surgeon Commander" muttered one of his juniors. "What with the collapse of the Bank, they've gone right ahead and cut us off......"

[1]. The staunch Captain Verity had fought alongside the Ludlow Expeditionary Force and the illustrious Golden Valley Invincibles of Sir Gilbert Hill at the Battle of Bredwardine Bridge.
[2]. In the famous Ludlow musical hall version, of course : "....loved by the bad, routed by the good, Robin Hood, Robin Hood...." Pantomime hissing upon each stage entrance of "Robin de Giles" is considered de rigeur. A "long run" of every revival is always predicted - and inevitably achieved.
[3]. The first use of battlefield air power since Captain Arrowsmith's Fiat CR32 at the Battle of Foy. The famous Anglican 366 Squadron are, of course, well known in the skies above Hereford, but have yet to make a battlefield appearance.
[4]. It seems that Storm Commander Giles was wounded in the left thigh. Wags in Ludlow put the wound slightly higher and rather more central, but the EIS have discounted this rumour. While sniggering, of course.
[5]. While this may be taken as a traditional sign of "bad omen" in the 1/60 scale VBCW world, in the 1/1 scale VBCW world it arises upon an opaqued artillery template being placed directly over the heads of the immediate target. Comrade Gollumroo's 18pdr had saved up one last surprise....
[6]. Comrade Gollumroo (Roo) must clearly have temporarily forgotten the rule that "HQs cannot be deliberately targetted by artillery". With no protest from Cousin Verity (Gavin), however, the Bishop (Clive) found his biography of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile truly diverting reading...
[7]. According to the scenario, each of the main factions (Socialist, Royalist/BUF, Anglican) had their own "bank" with which to pay LDVs that had been recruited in the morning session. However, one of the Banks was to "fail" at the end of the game, leaving the relevant LDVs without payment. A simple dice off between Comrade Winters (Rob), Storm Commander Giles (Giles) and the Bishop of Ludlow (Clive) at the end of the afternoon determined that Royalist Bank of England had catastrophically failed and the British Pound was now worthless. Truly not a lucky day for Giles...

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