And this is a pretty epic battle "report"... some of the formatting is lost, but stick with it, it's rather good.
EARDISLEY FALLS TO OUR BRAVE BOYS!
MASSACRE OF THE LIGHT LANCERS:
Colonel Trimingham “would have faced a court martial” - if he wasn’t already very, very dead
TREACHEROUS USE OF ITALIAN AIR POWER
ARROWSMITH’S FIGHTING RETREAT
As it may have been…..
The day of the battle dawned bright and clear (because that’s what days of battle always do, except when a chance card is drawn, and hence it rained from Turn 1, but let us not get ahead of the story) as a dust stained and exhausted messenger (because that’s what messengers always are) handed the Bishop of Ludlow a note of the latest dispositions of the enemy infesting Eardisley.
To the left, in the cornfield, what appeared to be an entire Panzer Battalion imported by the Fascists from the recent events in Spain (“Oh, don’t worry”, said J., their commander, rather generously in the circumstances, “They’re really quite useless. Always getting blown up. Even the specially modified one with the autocannon. Don’t know why I bring them at all. Junk really, tin cans....”) supported by hordes of infantry within Eardisley itself. To the right, black clad BUF infantry cohorts lined the convenient hedgeline with reserves and cavalry behind. In the centre, a mortar spotter next to a behemoth of a tank (“2 heavy machine guns in subsidiary turrets, a co-axial heavy machine gun, and the main gun, all able to fire independently” snarled Captain Arrowsmith, the BUF commander, because Fascists always snarl….)
The Bishop of Ludlow gulped and turned to the Anglican Commander in Chief.
“I do hope you have a cunning plan.”
“Indeed I do. Most cunning. Worthy of Schlieffen himself.” the Anglican Commander twirled his luxuriant moustaches with vigour and determination (because that’s what, etc. etc. - and it was Mort.)
“You will take the right. Move forward. Simon here will take the left. He will move forward. My forces shall advance simultaneously along the railway line in the centre, and then...”
The Bishop leaned forward. “And then?”
Watching his French uniformed troops file past in the advance, the Bishop sighed heavily. His only interest in these events was to find and rescue his episcopal colleague (and old classmate from Cambridge) the captured Bishop of Hereford. And yet here he was, committing the Ludlow Expeditionary Force to an attack on an obscure railway station garrisoned by the BUF, when all the intelligence reports suggested that poor Lulu (not a widely known nickname, from the old theological college days) was held by an independent Royalist faction. But there was nothing for it…..
The infantry trudged slowly across the open fields, leaving the LEF’s heavy artillery (a 75mm and a mortar) to unlimber and send their own observer teams scampering forward. On the road to the extreme right, the Ludlow Light Lancers trotted towards Eardisley junction. Their new Colonel, Albert Trimingham, advanced confidently at their head, accompanied by a personal bugler. Trimingham’s predecessor had been cashiered after the last engagement (The Battle of Foy, reports passim) when the Lancers had managed only to charge into a muddy and derelict railway embankment. Today would be very different…
The artillery began potting away. An early hit from the 75mm exploded a Fascist mortar team before it could even come into action, the Anglican mortar caused a few infantry casualties amongst the black clad legions, but it rapidly became apparent that the LEF’s artillery was bombarding with worn barrels - for every round aimed at Captain Arrowsmith’s cohorts unaccountably fell well to the left, and onto his Spanish Civil War allies (the perils of failing to hit on the die roll, and then scatter dice).
Suddenly, out of the clear blue skies (here we’re ignoring the weather results for dramatic effect) swooped a Fiat biplane, determined to halt the Anglican advance and proudly bearing the camouflage and markings of Il Duce’s Regia Aeronautica. Air power - an innovation in the Hereford campaign! Fascist treachery!
The Fiat CR43 lined up to strafe the packed infantry advancing along the railway line. The Anglican Commander in Chief blanched, fearful that his sophisticated strategy might be still born even at this very moment.
(“That’s eight heavy machine guns”, snarled Arrowsmith, throwing handfuls more dice into an already overflowing bucket. “Along the railway line.”
“Light machine guns, surely.” protested Mort. “Four of them.”
“Heavy.” snarled Arrowsmith. “And eight.”
J intervened. “I’m not sure that’s quite correct, actually.”
“You’re right.” Arrowsmith regarded his Fascist colleague cooly, glasses glinting with fanaticism even when he wasn’t snarling. “Made a mistake, there. It’s four heavy machine guns - and four 20mm heavy cannon.”
Mort made to protest again, and then thought better of it.
“Fair enough” said Mort.)
“No worries, Rev”. The cheery boys of the LEF dropped prone, raising rifles skyward. The light machine gunners attached to every section found their (miraculously appearing) AA tripods and motley mounts and took aim. “We’ll soon send that Captain Macaroni home” (look, they get away with this in Commando comics, ok ?)
A storm of small arms fire - not to mention casual xenophobia - ascended towards the clouds, (because small arms fire always storms, sometimes in a withering fashion), failing to hit the Fascist warbird but spoiling the pilot’s aim. His much vaunted 20mm cannon shells fell wide; his machine gun bullets caused few casualties. The biplane reared upward, uncertain how to proceed (a “Jumpy” marker duly appeared next to the flight stand).
“Take that, spaghetti muncher !” Cheers and taunts from the Anglican ranks as the Fiat circled uncertainly, then turned away from the forest of upraised fists and un-Anglican “V” signs and dived for home (a “Suppressed” marker had replaced the “Jumpy” marker). “Told you we’d do it, Bish !”
Now the LEF 75mm suddenly found its range, scoring a direct hit on Captain Arrowsmith’s multi gunned metal behemoth in the centre. At the LEF’s anxious HQ, hope soared that this thorn in the advance would finally be silenced, or at least forced into retreat. But as the smoke from the explosion cleared, it became clear that the behemoth was not only intact, but entirely unmoved.
(The BUF tank had passed its morale test with flying colours. “They’re veterans” snarled Arrowsmith. “Highly trained fanatics. In heavy armour. And supported by our Fascist standard. They laugh insanely at your paltry shells!”)
As if to demonstrate their new found confidence, a Fascist infantry section advanced over their covering hedge and into the adjacent meadow. Heading towards an old barn, the only cover in the otherwise featureless meadow, they presented a sudden but tempting target for the serried ranks of the otherwise unengaged Ludlow Light Lancers.
“Now Trimingham !” shouted the Bishop. “Now’s your time !”
The Lancers advanced : walk, trot, canter, the lance pennons coming down in a row, a sword waving madly in the centre as bugle calls rang out in urgent succession. The once over confident fascists looked about uncertainly as the meadow thrummed beneath them, too far beyond the hedge to retreat but too weak to face cavalry in the open and now in open charge towards them…..
Had they but known it, the gallant lancers had entered The Meadow in which Cavalry Cannot Charge Home (a sudden “Jumpy” marker had alighted next to the Anglican cavalry, preventing the final “charge” move). As the pride of the LEF wheeled and retired amidst much muttering - “I say, damned fine gallop, but I prefer sticking rabbits, me’self….Is that tea brewing over there, by any chance?” - the Fascist infantry levelled their rifles (“And the LMG !” snarled Arrowsmith) at the backs of the retreating cavalry in preparation for an entirely unexpected revenge….
But the Fascists were equally ignorant of their true location. For this was in fact The Meadow in which Cavalry Cannot Charge Home and in which Bullets Do Not Fly Straight. The storm of Fascist lead whistled harmlessly over the Lancers’ heads as Arrowsmith cursed his luck, stamping, and obviously snarling, with frustration (buckets of dice failed to turn up many hits, and even those failed the subsequent D6 rolls).
Now the cavalry performed a delicate minuet, wheeling yet again towards the Fascist line as the bugle sounded for the final charge. Again the familiar tempo of acceleration, the brightly pennoned lances dipping and khaki clad riders bending forward with eagerness….
Post action reports suggest that Colonel Trimingham, always a stickler for appearances, thought it right to pause and “dress his lines” before completing his charge. This was, after all, the Meadow in which Cavalry Cannot Charge Home Under Any Circumstances. A bugle call sounded, and the charge shuddered to a halt but feet from the Fascist firing line, horses blowing and stamping as the BUF levelled their rifles yet again (The Lancers had called a charge, but the movement dice had been unkind, stranding them just an inch from the BUF cohort).
There were no mistakes this time. Arrowsmith himself called down the storm of fire (“Well, this unit here can fire. And the LMG of that one, over there. Oh, and perhaps this one can do it, too…..”). A noisy fusillade, and the Bishop lowered his field glasses sadly. Every single cavalryman had gone down in an instant, riddled with fascist bullets, and of the Lancers there remained only a few riderless horses and the sad flap of Trimingham’s tattered personal banner with its solitary battle honour - “Foy Railway Embankment”.
Now it was the turn of the infantry, and with them the fate of the battle.
(“We can stand here” said Mort. “And die. Or we can charge forward. And die. But we could win that way.”)
Three sections of LEF infantry swallowed hard in unison, preparing themselves to dive over their hedge line and rush hard towards the fascist lines. One was being directed towards the old barn, squat and ancient in the middle of the meadow; the remainder were to head directly towards Eardisley station itself. To their left, the cherry bereted infantry that had stormed up the railway line prepared to join them; even further left, their wily Anglican allies (Simon) gripped their rifles hard and made ready….
At this crucial moment, The Bishop found himself next to the Anglican Commander in Chief.
“Look here” the Bishop said. “This charge thing. I’m still a bit worried about that multi turreted tank. With its damned heavy armour, and all.”
Such unexpected profanity betrayed the Bishop’s tension.
“Ooh, I wouldn’t worry,” the Commander in Chief waved a hand airily, his luxuriant moustaches now revolving in different directions. “I’ve got a sticky bomb team for that”.
“St George! St George! St. George and the Right Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury, Gawd bless him!”
The deep throated Anglican battle cry (because battle cries are always deep throated, even awkward ones with a ridiculous number of syllables) rang out as hundreds of men threw themselves forward over the hedges, desperate to cross the obvious killing ground.
“St George and the Right Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury!”
Deep within his BUF bunker, Arrowsmith snarled (this really is becoming rather tiresome - ed.) and clapped his leather gloved hands in delight. The resultant slushing sound was rather disappointing, even with the confines of the bunker. “Fools!” sneered Arrowsmith. “Fools! Fire with everything! At once! Alert the multi turreted behemoth! Make every bullet count! Infantry advance towards the barn! And get the message to our Republican allies for the armoured counter-attack! Or signal Skaro, at least!”
“Leader.” Arrowsmith’s adjutant clicked his heels in the Germanic fashion, releasing a carrier pigeon. This proved a schoolboy error within the confines of the bunker, as a cursing Arrowsmith (he really was becoming quite animated by now) had to shoo the flapping creature out the door. “Fools!”
The Bishop had been praying for most of the day, and now his prayers were answered. The dashing, roaring, Anglican attack had clearly unsettled the BUF infantry opposite, and their rifle fire scattered high and wide. A chattering LMG took out a portion of the LEF’s first infantry section, but the charge never faltered; not even when the three MGs and the main gun of the Fascist behemoth destroyed nearly all the remainder. The high speed contortions of the small but superbly trained crew within, loading and firing and loading again whilst rushing about amongst all those guns, clearly defied the physical laws of the universe.
The LEF third section reached the barn safely, dashing within.
The high point of the battle was now upon the contending forces, and a sudden squeaking and squealing of tracks betrayed the start of the Fascist counter attack. The Panzer Battalion lurched forward from the cornfield (“They really are rubbish, honestly”, said J.); the behemoth roared into sudden life and out of its prepared position.
“Attack!” yelled Arrowsmith (in a snarling sort of way), wiping pigeon droppings from his epaulettes. “Moseley and the King! And take that barn over there! Moseley!”
But even as the Fascist armour rolled forward, their infantry in the crucial central sector shuffled uncertainly backward. The mass of Anglican infantry swamped the tanks, running past them towards Eardisley Station and safety. Covering BUF Cavalry retreated from the advancing Anglicans in a spate of wild uncertainty (“Jumpy” and then “Suppressed” Markers in succession, as a result of indirect 75mm and mortar fire)
The Panzer Battalion’s Command Tank shuddered suddenly to a halt, disabled. Another Panzer burst into flame, destroyed (“Told you” said J.) by the sticky bomb team (“Told you” said Mort). Even the behemoth faltered, suddenly alone; looking down the barrel of the LEF’s 75mm to its front and conscious of the sticky bombers to its rear. The flanking BUF infantry refused the prospect of a charge into, and hand to hand combat within, the meadow barn (Arrowsmith groaned and gnashed his gold topped ivory dentures in frustration - poor dice rolling again !).
The sticky bombers raced toward the rear of the behemoth. The sweating LEF gunners rammed a copper bound round home, hastily cycling the long 75mm barrel downward and into direct fire mode. The gun commander raised his hand….
(A sudden cry from the Tidsley Junction table. Time! We’ve only got the hall for so long, you know! Time!)
As the battlefield fell strangely silent, the Anglican Commander in Chief and Captain Arrowsmith swapped notes by carrier pigeon. The Anglican infantry had taken the centre and were soon to sweep towards their objective of Eardisley Station; the flanking BUF infantry had failed to take the barn, the covering BUF cavalry were totally disordered, and the impetus of the armoured counter attack was close to exhaustion. While the forces of Arrowsmith & his Republican Ally were still intact, the end result could be calculated with some probability.
(“A winning draw for you” offered Arrowsmith, ripping white spattered epaulettes from his shoulders in despair. Mort contemplated the situation closely as the Bishop looked on. “All right, then,” Mort said. “Fair enough.”).
As the black clad lines of BUF infantry filed away behind Eardisley, the behemoth revving noisily and reversing course to join the solitary surviving Panzer in orderly retreat, even as Arrowsmith’s black command Mercedes raced away in a cloud of dust, the Bishop thanked God for his stout allies, the direct intervention of the Almighty at critical points of the battle (those poor Fascist dice rolls), and the wise battle plan of the Commander in Chief. He’d always thought so. Honestly. The tired and sadly depleted forces of the victorious LEF gathered around him, raising their Adrian helmets in salute, cheering madly :
“Hurrah! St George and the Right Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury! Death to Arrowsmith! We’ll get him next time! And present you with his dentures! Ludlow and the Bishop! Hurrah!”
(Note : the Ludlow Casualty Rolls reveal the high cost of victory. Aside from the massacred Lancers, almost two full sections of infantry were lost in the final assault on Eardisley. The remaining infantry section might now be promoted to veterans, but the LEF clearly require reconstitution whilst in winter quarters. The Bishop has received news of the completion of an Armoured Car Squadron in intended replacement of the lost Lancers. But he may have to return the 75mm to the workshops for re-boring of its barrel, and rely upon recently recruited Scots mercenaries to make up his heavy infantry losses. Only time will tell….)
With thanks to Clive, my main opponent on the day.