Friday, 19 August 2011

Interwar aeronautics in Herefordshire

I recently came upon a great website that contained PDF copies of every publication of 'Flight' magazine from 1906 to 2005. A quick search revealed some interesting facts about Herefordshire, including the campaign for an airport, the Three Counties race and the role of Painter Brothers in aeronautical manufacturing.

Even in those days, politicians would go to any lengths to canvas for votes, as is evidenced by this piece in the September 9, 1920 edition of Flight:
“During the War Mr. Geoffrey Le M. Mandes was in the Royal Flying Corps. He is now utilising his skill then acquired, in his campaign as prospective Liberal candidate for North Hereford Division. This week he was responsible for a flying exhibition, a feature at Leominster Agricultural Show.”

In April 8, 1926, it was reported that: “MRS. ELIOTT-LYNN, the energetic lady member of the London Aeroplane Club, made a successful parachute drop from an aeroplane at Hereford on April 3. When attempting this feat the day previous, the machine carrying her developed engine trouble just as she was about to jump, and had to make a forced landing, with Mrs. Eliott-Lynn still clinging to the side of the aeroplane.”

As reported on September 20, 1928, the Isle of Purbeck Light Aeroplane club came to the aid of the agricultural sector:
"Club work has been somewhat curtailed this week, owing to the fact that the Spartan, living up to her name, became restless on hearing about the milk war. Feeling it was necessary to soothe her and assist our firm friends the farmers, we offered her services to Alderman E. W. Langford, Mayor of Hereford and Chairman of the National Farmers' Union Milk Committee, who has since been airing his views and himself in almost every milk-producing area in the country, from Wiltshire to Northamptonshire, and incidentally we believe controlling the Spartan as well as the milk war."

Politics came to the fore again in 1929, as shown by an article in the May 30 edition entitled ‘Touring Constituencies by Light ‘plane’: “Capt. H. M. Yeatman flew his own Cirrus-Moth to help Maj. F. M. Dougall contest Hereford in the Liberal interest. Maj. F. M. Dougall is on the staff of the Daily Express.”

Hereford Aerodrome

The December 13, 1928 edition of Flight reports on the efforts of a number of towns in getting a municipal aerodrome:
“Hereford's possibilities as an air station for traffic flying between the North of England and South Wales and the West country were discussed by the Hereford Chamber of Commerce recently. The Chairman, Mr. G. W. Russell, said it behoved Hereford to be in the van, and see that the claims of the city were furthered. Mr. Storr-Barber said that it would be of great advantage to the city to become an air station, and it might be that the promotion of such an establishment might lead to the coming of a factory. The Chairman then proposed that they inquire what steps other towns were taking, and then do something direct. It is stated that there are many places in the vicinity that could be adapted to the purpose.”

 In the April 18, 1929 edition, Hereford is listed as one of the towns ‘which have sites in view’. A couple of years later and things have moved on a little with the establishment of the Hereford Aeroplane Club:
“Progress in establishing a municipal aerodrome at Hereford has not been very evident for some time, but now that there is a movement on foot to establish the Hereford Aeroplane Club. We trust that this latter may be the means of making the authorities wake up to the value of having their own aerodrome. The Lord-Lieutenant, Sir John Cotterill, Bart., has consented to become patron to the club. The subscription has been fixed at £3 3s. for pilot members, /2 2s. for ordinary members who are entitled to fly only as passengers, and 10s. 6d. for junior members. A committee has been formed, and Mr. P. Gwynne James, of Marston House, Belmont Road, Hereford, will be glad to furnish further particulars to anyone in the district who is interested.”
 In May 22, 1931, Hereford is listed as one of the towns where ‘complete surveys of the environs’ had been made.

However, the December 7, 1933 issue reveals little change in the situation. In an article entitled “THE POSITION TO-DAY - A Guide to the Municipal Airport facilities offered by the sixteen established Airports”, Hereford is listed as one of the ‘towns which have had sites inspected’. Optimism must have still been high however, for in April 5, 1934, it was reported that “At a meeting of the Hereford Council recently, a ten minute air service between Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester was forecast.”

By 1936 it seemed like an airport at Hereford was on the cards, situated by the racecourse. The site had already witnessed the Three Counties Air Race (see below) and the opening paragraph of a report on that event in September 24’s issue stated:

“After seven years of endeavour by a few interested Hereford people, notably Mr. W. Shimmins, the engineer and surveyor, it would appear that the city may have its own airport within the next twelve months. Purchases have been made and options obtained on quite a lot of land beside the existing racecourse, and the fact that, even now, the teeshaped site is usable was shown last Friday, though, on first sight, the runs appeared to be inadequate when the boundary obstructions were taken into consideration.”

What better way to christen the airport, then to hold a thrilling air race!

The Three Counties Air Race of 1936

Flight’s August 20th, 1936 edition contained an article entitled ‘Hereford comes in’, in which it was announced that:
“On September 18 and 19 a flying meeting and handicap air race over three laps of a triangular course between Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester, is being organised. A cash prize of £50 and the Hereford City Trophy goes to the winner, with two other trophies and £30 and £15 for the second and third finishers. The pilot making fastest time, the first lady finisher and the first pilot flying a machine with an all-up height of less than 8oolb. to finish will each be awarded a trophy. The race will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 and all normal entries must be in by first post on September 12; late entries at double fees can arrive by first post on September 18.
The "base camp" will be the old racecourse at Hereford, which is being cleared by the city council, and will be officially recognised by the Air Ministry as a landing ground; the runs are about 800 yards, in each direction.
Unfortunately, the organisers have not noticed that the London-Cardiff race is due to be held on the same date, and, as this is something of a classic, it is likely to take all the entries. Perhaps the Hereford show can still, in the circumstances, be dated back a week.
Pilots and manufacturers who are interested should write to Mr. J. Buckley, c/o Thome's, Ltd., Commercial Road, Hereford. The organisers are Western Aircraft Sales, Ltd., 18, The Butts, Worcester.”
Concern over clashes with the London-Cardiff race must have indeed caused problems as the Hereford race was later brought forward a day to the Friday, starting at 3pm.

The September 24 issue chronicled the great race. See above for the opening paragraph of the article, which then continues:
“For the Three Counties Air Race there was certainly an extraordinarily good entry, some score of machines appearing on the line for the start, including one or two of those owned by our better-known racing pilots, and such larger types as a Monospar S.T. 25, flown by Mr. Seth-Smith, and a D.H. Dragonfly, flown by Mr. S. F. Woods for Mr. S. Harris. Every machine got off with plenty of room to spare and the only unpleasant moment occurred when a certain very experienced pilot carried away a few telephone wires on his arrival. Although roomy enough, the ground was a trifle rough at the end of the run and the most interesting sight of the afternoon was that provided by a score of pilots vying with each other in the work of making the shortest possible landing over obstructions. Some of these were incredibly short and showed what could be done—with care.
The whole affair was run on most informal lines. The course consisted of three laps of a not-too easy thirty-mile circuit, and the pilots were handicapped on their own estimated speeds, anyone exceeding this speed being disqualified. The Rev. Cecil Boulton (Spartan) was the limit man and W. Humble (Hawk Six) was on scratch.
Even after the first lap the placings had obviously altered considerably, though it was difficult to follow the race. After two laps all manner of things had occurred. R. F. Hall (Avro Cadet) had worked up from eleventh place, through ninth place, to the lead; the. Misses Glass (D.H. Moth) had moved from fourth to second; and the Spartan was flying fourth. Humble was not yet in the picture, though he had picked up two or three places, the Monospar was running twelfth after starting in fifteenth position, and S. T. Lowe (Comper Swift) had moved from sixteenth to eleventh.
The finishing order of the leaders was as follows: 1, R. F. Hall (Avro Cadet), 45 min. 34 sec.; 2, Miss Mabel Glass (D.H. Moth), 48 min. 0 sec.; 3, A. F. E. Payen (D.H. Puss Moth), 45 min. 14 s e c ; 4, P. D. Hayn (D.H. Moth) and S. T. Lowe (Comper Swift) ; 5, C. H. Tutt (D. H. Moth) ; 6, K. G. Seth-Smith (Monospar).
Thereafter, pilots and others adjourned for further informal proceedings at the City Arms Hotel.”

After the race, some participants hoped to race in the London (Heston)-Cardiff event. However: “the Misses Glass could not get through to start after the Hereford event; they came on to Cardiff in time to see the finish after putting down at Cheltenham. Humble and Napier got through from Hereford to Heston by the skin of their teeth and by virtue of the latter's intimate knowledge of the Great Western Railway”

Last word should perhaps go to the author of ‘Topics of the Day’ in the same issue, who had a thing or two to say about ‘safety first’. While warning readers that ‘you cannot play the fool with an aeroplane’, he also wrote:
“Motor racing and air racing are only good because the competitors are pitting their skill against those risks, and I consider, for instance, that the two competitors in the Hereford race, who were also flying in the Cardiff event, were fully justified in taking some chances in getting back to Heston for the second race when the weather was really too bad for cross-country work without radio. Equally justified were the other less experienced competitors who put down on the way to Heston and ‘gave in.’”
The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust lists the racecourse airport as operational between 17 September 1936 - 1952, with another airfield near what is now Wyvale between 10 September 1921 - September 1939.

Aeronautics manufacturing and other businesses in Herefordshire

In March 11, 1932, it was announced that with the exception of business with the Air Ministry and the Royal Household, the whole of De Havllland aircraft sales in England would be handled by three concerns, and they in turn would be responsible for the organisation of sales throughout their own particular areas.

Herefordshire came under the aegis of Phillips & Powis Aircraft (Reading), Ltd. Who were responsible for the Counties of Buckingham, Berkshire, Oxford, Northampton, Warwick, Leicester, Rutland, Worcester, Gloucester, Stafford, Shropshire, Hereford, Monmouth, Glamorgan, and Somerset, north of the Railway Line connecting Clevedon, Axbridge, Wells, Shepton Mallet and Frome.

One of the new companies listed in June 18, 1936 was Western Aircraft Sales, Ltd: “Private company, registered June 10. Capital, £1,000 in £1 shares. Objects : to carry on the business of manufacturers
of and dealers in aeroplanes, airships, etc. The permanent directors are : 'Robt. White, "Crahmond," Hampton Park, Hereford (director of H. B. Rogers Motors, Ltd.); Edward R. Exell, Greenacres, Bobblestock, Hereford .”

In the June 25, 1936 edition, an advertisement for the Midland Gliding Club Ltd of Birmingham invited readers to ‘Learn to fly without an engine and make pleasure of it.’ Primary grounds were listed as Handsworth, Northfield and Hereford, with a Soaring Centre at Long Mynd and Church Stretton.

Mr. White appeared again in April 29, 1937 under another local company - Aeroparts Engineering Company Ltd: “Private company, registered April 25. Capital, £3,000 in 3,000 shares of £1. Objects : to carry on the business of aircraft constructers and builders and type-testers of engines and aeroplanes, etc. The directors are: Hugh K. Pierson, Cyril H. Shelton, Robert White. Solicitor: Frank T. Carver, 44, Bridge Street, Hereford.”

This company advertised in the Situations Vacant section in July 8, 1937: Inspector for detail parts, with workshop or drawing-office experience. Aeroparts Engineering Co. Ltd., Phoenix Works, Hereford.

Painter Brothers

Painter Brothers, founded at Hereford in 1920 and incorporated in 1929, is a major British fabricator of structural steelwork and one of the leading producers of bolted lattice steelwork in the world. 
In the March 11, 1937 issue, notice was given of Painter Brothers’ heavy-duty storage bins:
“Giving details of their new system of unit-construction storage bins, a booklet has been issued by Painter Bros. Ltd., of Hereford, and of 60, Hillmarton Road, Caledonian Road, London, N.7.
The bins, made of heavy-duty British mild steel, galvanised with pure zinc, give 18 cu. ft. of storage space, or 16 cwt., in each compartment.
They are constructed on the multiple unit principle, in standard four-high units, for either single wall or back-to-back storage. Both types can be supplied with either open or closed backs.”

The company (in conjunction with Callender's Cable and Construction Co Ltd.) provided the steelwork for the first Callender-Hamilton unit-construction hangars ordered by the British Air Ministry in the pre-World War II rearmament programme. An article to this effect appeared in the January 20, 1938 edition:
“The Air Ministry has had eight of the Callender-Hamilton unit-construction hangars erected on various sites, and the necessary steelwork is now available on a commercial basis. The famous cable and pylon firm have placed the hangar on the market in conjunction with Painter Bros., Ltd., of Hereford, after exhaustive tests.
Some of the claims are: Lightness with low cost, standardisation of parts, ease of transport and erection, all connections by bolts, and all parts protected against corrosion by special hot-dip galvanising (as used on " grid " towers) after fabrication. The sliding doors system incorporated gives maximum clear opening, the foundations may or may not be set in concrete, and the roof, sides and doors can be covered with any form of material.
The steel framework consists of a series of box girder ribs comprising vertical stanchions supporting flat pitch roof girders of similar cross section. These girders give normal clear height of 25 feet on a span approximately 10a feet. Any* length of hangar may, of course, be built by adding bays as required. The manufacturers, Painter Bros:, are specialists in the fabrication and galvanising of light steel structures.”


With a possible war looming, Flight issue January 7, 1937, had this to report:
“Westward Ho! The explosives departments of Woolwich Arsenal are shortly to be moved to new arsenals at or near Chorley (Lancashire), Bridgend (Glamorgan), Irvine (Ayrshire), and Hereford. Some superficial thinkers have been writing in the papers that as the increasing endurance of aeroplanes will soon put all parts of the British Isles within the range of a Continental enemy, there is no great advantage in moving westward.
Such a view overlooks the fact that the passage of raiders across England, even for half an hour, very greatly increases the chances of the defence. The course of the raiders can be followed and plotted, and time is given for guns and fighter aeroplanes to get ready for them.”

I assume by ‘Hereford’ the article is referring to ROF Rotherwas, which is another story altogether…

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Archenfield Amateur Athletics Association

Athletic support for the Anglican League!

After finishing my Blackshorts I had a few (mainly short-wearing) figures left over in the lead pile, so I thought I'd do a sporting-based unit for the Anglican League.

And, true to form, I wrote a short history for the GWP...

You may remember, before the war, how a plucky band of provincial sportsmen hit the headlines.

Who could forget the stirring story of the dashing Indian Army officer who returned to Blighty to inherit a fortune, or how this fellow – a deeply religious man who believed that a healthy body equalled a healthy soul – settled near Ross-on-Wye and formed a cadre of fit young men from the ranks of the listless unemployed in the area?

Surely you haven’t forgotten the stirring tale of how the Archenfield Amateur Athletic Association took on all-comers and beat them into a cocked hat? How about that infamous time when the AAAA reached the finals of the All-England Athletics Championship and tied with the nation’s top clubs at the top of the medals table?

And what of that dreadful moment when, in the 100 metres dash – the final edge-of-your-seat event in the competition – AAAA sprinter ‘Flash’ Harry Davis sprawled off the track after being allegedly elbowed aside by that bounder from the Borehamwood Blackshirts, costing the underdogs the trophy? And how about when the King himself, officiating as honorary umpire, refused to listen to their complaints and labelled them as ‘sore losers who should go back to their sheep or whatever’?

Well now they’re back in the limelight. Track and field has been replaced by callisthenics and rifle practice as the Archenfield Amateur Athletics Association once more take to the arena in a far deadlier competition.

The Blackshorts

One of my favorite television shows is the TV adaptation of PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. One of the recurring 'villains' in the show is Roderick Spode and his Blackshorts (a pastiche on Mosley and the Blackshirts).

Naturally the Blackshorts were the first thing that sprung to mind when I thought about creating my own VBCW force. All I had to do was find some suitable short-wearing miniatures, and work the organisation into my interpretation of Herefordshire.

So first, the miniatures...

The whole battalion.

Command group (L-R: Medic, Batman, CiC - Eustace Spode, Standard Bearer, Political Officer - 'Trouncer' Trudd, Sniper, Signaller).

A Coy. The Marches Blackshorts.

B Coy. The Metropolitan Blackshorts.

HMG team.

Boys anti-tank rifle team.

Secondly, the backstory (as seen on the GWP)...

The Blackshorts and Herefordshire: a short history

Roderick Spode and the Blackshorts

"The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting "Heil Spode!" and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?"

Before the civil war, the Blackshort movement was just another crack-pot pseudo fascist paramilitary organisation. It was founded by the 7th Earl of Sidcup Roderick Spode – amateur dictator, proprietor of Eulalie Soeurs underwear emporium, jewellery expert, designer of the collapsible channel bridge and a man appearing "as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment."

The Blackshorts espoused a philosophy similar to many other right-wing groups: protectionism, rationalisation and the ‘scientific’ categorisation of the British populace. For Spode, this meant banning the import of foreign root vegetables and instead encouraging every free-born Englishman to grow his own potatoes, while giving over entire counties for the cultivation of a single crop (turnips for Gloucester, beans for Wiltshire, Wales and Scotland nothing but potatoes.)

He also planned to ensure that every citizen owned a British umbrella and an ‘honest, British-made bicycle’ (to be manufactured solely in Norfolk, along with motorcars), thus ensuring a mobile workforce adequately protected against the elements. While many groups would grade this workforce by race or class, for Spode and the Blackshorts the only feature worth measuring was the knee.

The Blackshorts and the civil war

"The British knee is firm, the British knee is muscular, the British knee is on the march!"

When King Edward VIII installed British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley as Prime Minister and the flames of civil war began to break out across the country, once-derided organisations such as the Blackshorts took on an air of legitimacy.

For many people, anxious to ‘get on’ under the new regime, the prospect of joining a uniformed paramilitary group less sinister than the BUF was an attractive one. Recruits flocked to the smaller, more ‘harmless’ groups such as the Blackshorts, hoping to gain the kudos of wearing a right-wing uniform without the onerous duty of having to fight or hail Mosley as leader. The Blackshort organisation grew, much to the alarm of Mosley – jealously guarding his influence and determined to stamp out any independent movements in the metropolis.

Soon other smaller groups were being disbanded or absorbed into the BUF, but with the Blackshorts Mosley had a problem: Eulalie Soeurs had become a favourite haunt of many influential women, including none other than the Royal Consort, Queen Wallace. Moving against Spode was to move against Eulalie’s ‘Royal Appointment’. The only option was to move the Blackshorts away from London and post their armed militia to distant parts of the country.

Eustace Spode and Herefordshire

“When one can no longer approach a chap in a gentleman’s convenience to inquire after the time, without being roughly apprehended by a plain-clothes policeman – well it’s a bally nuisance!”

Spode was reluctant to relocate from the capital lest distance diminish his business and political clout, but found himself under severe pressure from the government to conform to Mosley’s will. Luckily, a solution was soon discovered, for out in the depths of rural Herefordshire a smaller Blackshort group was being formed under the aegis of Lord Sidcup’s nephew, Eustace Spode.

Eustace had been exiled after an unfortunate misunderstanding that had not only left a stain on his character, but also the Spode name. Under instruction to form a branch of Eulalie Soeurs in Herefordshire, Spode the younger was desperate to worm his way back into his uncle’s good books and as such began to form an embryonic Blackshort cadre from his circle of friends and any sympathetic locals who, like their London brethren, hoped to further themselves by joining a right-wing force.

Organisationally, Eustace’s Blackshorts were part of the royalist King Offa’s Legion alongside the BUF. Tasked with securing the border against Welsh nationalist incursions, King Offa’s Legion suffered from a crippling lack of manpower. Under pressure from action by the Anglican League and the Malvern Hills Conservators, the BUF elements of the Legion were reorganised into the Three Counties Legion, leaving Eustace Spode in sole charge of King Offa’s Legion.

This situation presented both Mosley and Spode with an ideal compromise: Spode could continue to finance his Blackshorts, provided they were sent to the provinces to reinforce existing royalist units. Thus Eustace found himself not only in command of his original ‘Marches Blackshorts’ company, but also a full company of more well-equipped but less experienced ‘Metropolitan Blackshorts’, complete with heavy support weapons, paid for by Lord Sidcup.

March of the Blackshorts

"Nothing stands between us and our victory except defeat!"

And so the forces of fascism had a new champion in the barbaric backwaters of the west of England - King Offa’s Blackshort Auxiliary Legion. Standing firm along the Anglo-Welsh border, the sturdy-kneed Blackshorts of Herefordshire were ready to fight the grubby, knock-kneed Welshman; the thin, knobbly kneed Bolshevik and the fat, puffy-kneed Anglican in the name of the true King, Edward VIII, his royal spouse and purveyors of top-quality ladies’ undergarments everywhere!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Generic militia - Dixon minis conversions

My first real crack at converting miniatures. I had a few old Dixon ACW minis knocking around, so I thought I'd try converting them into a generic VBCW militia.

I bought some extra Dixon French resistance fighters and, thanks to some weapons, helmets and equipment from The Assault Group (and a couple of Milliput flat caps), came up with this...

This unit doubles up as either an AL militia or a royalist mercenary group (The Monmouthshire English Trained Band).

Monday, 15 August 2011

Twiggy Mommet scarecrow protestors

My rural protestors!

Figures are a mix of Gripping Beast, Rapier minis, Brigade Games western bushwackers, Brigade Games Russian Ghouls (with milliput heads), Black Cat Bases and Heroclix.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Some useful theses available on the web

During my sporadic research I've come across a few useful theses whilst browsing the web...

The Management of Road Traffic in a Rural County

This thesis concentrates on the interwar period in Herefordshire. While it obviously concentrates on road and transport issues, it also provides some interesting background information (including a useful population density map, and a map of the principle roads throughout the county).

The British Union of Fascists in the Midlands, 1932 – 1940

An interesting study of the BUF in the Midlands. It doesn't mention Herefordshire, but is still useful background reading as the Midlands isn't a million miles away.

Able Bodies: Work camps and the training of the unemployed in Britain before 1939

A study of Britain's instructional camps, where the long-term unemployed were given manual labour in order to 'harden them up'. There was an instructional camp near Shobdon in Herefordshire.

An Uneasy Alliance? Welsh Nationalism and Roman Catholicism

Interesting reading given that, in the VBCW universe, Welsh nationalists are operating along Herefordshire's western flank.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Battle of Much Marcle

The Anglican League make a push on Ledbury - an excuse for me to disappear during the royal wedding last April! Another write-up from the GWP...

The Anglican League enclave in Ross, Herefordshire, is in trouble.

Under the command of a firebrand Welsh vicar, the Reverend Henry Meredith, Anglican forces in the area have being slowly building up strength, but have yet to formulate a clear future strategy.

They are also in a rather unhappy marriage with the Welsh nationalists – a hangover from the Bishop of Hereford days. The Welsh are becoming more and more unpopular with the locals around Ross, where the heady days of revolution have begun to revert back to a conservative, anti-Welsh, traditionalism. As a result of this, Meredith and non-local units under his control are beginning to be viewed with suspicion, with many openly questioning his suitability for leadership.

To make matters worse, supplies are dwindling. Arms and ammunition from Monmouth are becoming a rarity as the difficult route from North Wales, down the border to Monmouthshire, is increasingly disrupted by royalist patrols of the Legion of King Offa in Herefordshire. There is also the suspicion that the Welsh are funnelling most of their supplies to the more lucrative market in Shropshire.

The alliance with the nationalists has also put paid to any co-operation with coal mining leftists in the Welsh valleys – who are at any rate squaring off with the Mayor of Cardiff, while the less reliable assistance of radicals in the Forest of Dean to the south has also dwindled as they prepare their defences against the Duke of Montfort in Gloucestershire who is determined to snuff out their banditry.

In short, Meredith needs new allies, and as such, puts his faith in God – who does not disappoint.

For across the border in Worcestershire, the Malvern Hills Conservators have scored a decisive victory against the hated BUF at Drugger's End, near Castlemorton. The Malverns, and nearby Ledbury, have a tradition of anti-fascist leanings – from the Twiggy Mommet movement to this recent battle, the area is ripe for an Anglican rebellion. It is only natural that Meredith and the MHC should join hands at Ledbury.

A plan is formed. For the Anglican League to take Ledbury they must first occupy the village of Much Marcle on the Ross-Ledbury road. Here lies the only significant obstacle to an eastward advance – Hellens Manor and the local royalist LDV, the Much Marcle Wanderers. If this threat can be neutralised, a message will be sent to other local landowners, upon whose support the thinly-stretched BUF (in the shape of the Three Counties Legion) rely heavily.

Once Much Marcle falls, Meredith hopes, the citizens of Ledbury will rise up in support of the League and he will be able to link up with not only the MHC, but the Severn Riverside, Wharf, Labours, Federation (SRWLF) in the Diglis canal basin and the remnants of the larger AL forces who are lurking somewhere south of the Malverns following the Severn Valley campaign. With these forces united, a push towards the King’s residence at Madresfield and/or the occupation of Worcester could well be the next step.

It’s a huge gamble, for word travels fast in Herefordshire and the royalists will be quick to respond to any attack, but the possible gains are immense. And so the Anglican League head east, while the MHC head south, skirting Ledbury to reach Much Marcle via Dymock. The scene is set – will the Anglican League turn the tide, or will the BUF get their revenge against the Conservators? Once again gunshots will ring out in the shadow of the Malverns.

Once again I'm going to quote Giles for an after action report...

JP and I had a really good game today.

The Anglican league were attempting to push eastwards towards the Malverns, and the Malvern Hills Conservators (MHC) though nominally Royalist were looking for support ion their spat with the BUF. Obviously the BUF were keen to stop this link up.

The village of Much Marcle was the centerpiece,with Westons' cider factory as an objective the BUF dug in and the Anglicans started their attack...only they didn't because JP pulled a random event card that destroyed his communications.

The next two rounds were spent in desultory fire, the BUF's tank fired ineffectually at the armoured car of the Anglicans. The Anglicans lost an HMG and half a unit, whilst destroying the BUF tank

Then the MHC arrived. JP pulled a car from the random events that showed the MHC and BUF were deadly enemies, both sides charged towards each other recklessly. Their armoured car careered through a fence to engage with the elite BUF unit. Ther two sides engaged in hand to hand combat

The MHC wiped out one BUF unit, but the BUF wiped out their command unit and captured the MHC's commander seeing off a second unit. The MHC with their HMG already suppressed ran for it.

Result: The BUF defended their position. The Anglicans have a toe hold in Much Marcle and the MHC have been repulsed.

We also had (royal wedding) cup cakes from JP's wife.

First, a little light refreshment...

The village of Much Marcle. The Anglican League's entry point is bottom left. The BUF have defensive positions at the top end, while the MHC arrive at the right hand side.

The BUF dig in and await the enemy

The Anglican League advance towards the village (eventually)

The AL's let flank skirt the cider factory...

...To avoid fire from the BUF's tank and MMG

The AL advance under fire towards the church in the centre

The MHC arrive!

The AL occupy the pub - cheers!

And also the cider works - cheers again!

Deprived of a drink, the BUF right flank pour fire at them from their defence works

But on their left, they spot their hated foe and, desperate for revenge, leave their trenches and charge!

An almighty scrap ensues between the Buf and MHC

On the other side, the AL and BUF exchange fire

The BUF tank is knodked out by the AL's battered armoured car

By the church, the MHC and their armour get the better of the BUF

But the MHC's command decide enough is enough after being battered by their mortal foe!


Anthony Hall - Hereford's pretender to the throne

During my occasional research into interwar Herefordshire, I came across one Anthony William Hall – an ex policeman from Shropshire who resided in Herefordshire for a time.

Believing himself to be the descendant of an illegitimate son of Henry VIII, he held many meetings around the Midlands, oscillating wildly from merely asking King George to relinquish the throne in favour of him, to calling for his execution ("The King is a German, a pure bred German ... I want to become the first policeman to cut off the King's head.")!

From a local heritage website:

Anthony Hall lived in the village (of Little Dewchurch) and is buried in the churchyard. He announced in 1931 at a big meeting at the Bull Ring, Birmingham, that he was the rightful King of England and that George V was a foreign imposter! He created his own currency and caused the royal family and the government some concerns. But at the end of his life he was working in the ordnance factory in Rotherwas, Hereford. He died in 1947 without any male descendants.

Here are a some links…

Article in the Guardian
Wikipedia entry
BBC Hereford & Worcester feature
Feature in the Telegraph
Feature in the Times
Would the outbreak of civil war prompt Mr. Hall renew his claim to the throne?


Some more musings of mine from the GWP...

The general absence of colonial troops fighting in the British Civil War (with the exception of Wynd-Grator's force in the Channel Islands) can perhaps be explained by the story of the West Indian/West African Fusiliers - the 'Wifwafs'.

As fighting erupted in Britain, it became clear to the government that the Dominions would have their hands full preventing localised civil wars and would be unable to support the King to such an extent as they did during the Great War. The forces of the Raj would be similarly occupied, facing not just the threat of nationalism, but also the possibility of Soviet and Japanese belligerence.

Nonetheless, it was generally agreed that the British Empire should be seen to be actively supporting the King, thus giving the impression of imperial unity, not only to other nations, but also to subjects of His Majesty across the globe.

It was then that the Secretary of State for the Colonies hit upon an idea: why not organise a small, loyal fighting force from Britain's Caribbean and African territories? A 'coloured' unit would not only act as a symbol of Imperial solidarity, but also counteract the King's 'Fascist' reputation.

To this end volunteers were called up from the West Indies and West Africa to form the West Indian/West African Fusiliers. The plan was to give recruits rudimentary drill training by British officers during the sea voyage to a 'collection point' at Gibraltar before shipping the unit to a government-held port in the UK, where they would receive equipment and weaponry.

However the plan was flawed from the start. Many did indeed volunteer, but others were press-ganged by plantation owners or, in the case of West Africa, local chieftains, in the hope of currying favour with the local governor. The authorities had also reckoned without the influence of Anglican League inspired missionaries, who almost as soon as the civil war started had began to preach against the King and Mosley in isolated villages and churches.

Moreover when the 'Wifwafs', already demoralised and heartily seasick, reached British shores, they found themselves kitted out with obsolete equipment and antique rifles. The promised 'smart' uniform consisted of nothing more than an ill-fitting suit of cheap brown or grey corduroy and a shapeless grey slouch hat.

Even worse, in a move of either crass stupidity or treacherous cunning, they were then attached to a BUF auxiliary unit, who gave their new comrades a less-than-hearty welcome before sending them to the nearest front line with picks, shovels and orders to dig trenches for their 'superiors'.

Feeling let-down by the authorities and in increasing contact with Anglican League agents, the 'Wifwafs' quickly denounced the King, shot their BUF overseers and deserted en-masse to the nearest Anglican force, with whom they fight until conditions are right for them to return to their far-away homes across the British Empire.

Melee in the shadow of the Malverns - the Battle of Drugger's End

My first ever VBCW game, played last year with Giles.

The setting: a farm at Drugger's End, near Castlemorton, Malvern. Both sides had been informed that the local bandits had a stock of material, so went there to confiscate said material.

Obviously those BUF bully boys of the Three Counties Legion had been traipsing around the Malvern Conservators’ beloved hills a little too roughly, for, one fateful day, the two sides found themselves squaring up to each other at a farm somewhere at the base of the Malverns.

The BUF and MHC set up on opposite sides. Both had ~30 infantry, the BUF had a Vickers Independent Tank (“Lady Astor”), whilst the MHC had a Vickers Mark II (“Enigma”) and some bombers.

Both sides deployed infantry at the flanks with their command and armour in the centre, either side of a large barn. The MHC also deployed their HMG here, whilst the BUF’s HMG headed to a hill on their far left flank to give them a clear shot at the MHC tank.

For the first few rounds there were light casualties. Then things turned nasty, the MHC shot to pieces a BUF infantry unit as they advanced over a hillock, on the MHC left, whilst on the MHC right the BUF HMG and tank almost halved a MHC infantry unit.

Advancing head-to-head, the two tanks then duked it out, the BUF couldn't hit a bull's arse with a shovel however and in a moment of bravado, the MHC tank ("Enigma") raced past her, and in the next round charged straight into a unit of BUF infantry who promptly retreated before being sprayed with gunfire. Enigma then fired a spot on shot against the BUF HMG that had been set up on a hillock behind rocks destroying it utterly. The MHC unit got shot to pieces and was in a fragile state.

Rather than turn around and give chase, Lady Astor opted to give support to the BUF’s ailing centre, leaving the left flank infantry to draw Enigma away. She rounded the barn and attacked the MHC in the rear, destroying the HMG before driving off the command unit of Sir Jonathan Porridge and Sir George Moonbat. The other MHC units fell back with casualties.

At the beginning of the next round the MHC infantry on their right flank headed for the hills, failing their pluck tests. The left flank held and inflicted a large amount of damage. The Bomber tried to destroy the BUF tank, the commander of which was beginning to wish for some infantry support from his comrades lurking around the other side of the barn. Luckily the matches were damp and it failed to explode.

In any VBCW game, it seems to be traditional for one lone lunatic to make a stand. In our case, this was the sole surviving member of the BUF infantry on their right flank. After a defiant burst of LMG fire, this silly sod fell, leaving the remaining infantry units on this side of the table to pull back a little to draw breath.

On the other side, the MHC tank stopped chasing the BUF infantry, who throughout the chase held their nerve and performed an orderly retreat, and stopped to turn her turret on the BUF machine – now frantically reversing up the road to avoid any more sticky bombs and get a shot around the barn at her opposite number.

The final round came, and the BUF tank fired first - but still it was firing rubber tipped shells that bounced off the "Enigma" despite a direct hit. Return fire killed two of the BUF tank crew, as the BUF infantry, fresh from the chase, raced to the centre in pursuit of the other MHC bomber, who had vaulted a fence to join his comrade.

The end point came when the MHC bombers detonated their sticky bombs, both going off and the first brewing up the BUF tank. At this point, with much cursing, the BUF infantry withdrew, leaving a very battered MHC infantry unit and tank in control of the farmyard.

A very good battle, which was enjoyed by both players, and swung from one side to the next. We forgot many rules, and made up rules on the spot, for such things as tanks running over units and turning turrets 180+ degrees (though a quick check of WH40K showed we weren't too far off base!). The use of cards to determine initiative was good; though we both worked out we were using the tanks to make/break the game. It had been several years since I had played any kind of wargame, and it’s encouraging to know that my dice rolls are as rubbish as ever when it comes to shooting at things!

The starting layout.

View of the BUF line from their right flank.

From the left flank.

The MHC line from thier left flank.

The end! A badly damaged Lady Astor is brewed up before BUF infantry can get to the bombers.

The Malvern Hills and the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border.

My gaming buddy Giles has written some good stuff on the Malvern hills and the surrounding area on the GWP. I hope he doesn't mind me quoting his material!

The Malvern Hills and the war

Contrary to the national tabloid’s assertion that Madresfield is close to Worcester, the inhabitants of Malvern regularly point out that Madresfield is closer to Malvern. This is also borne out with the unusually large Royalist military presence in the town. The security of the town, and the Malvern Hills that loom over the area is paramount to the security of the King and the Royal court.

The Malvern Hills are also a conduit for arms being smuggled to Socialist and Anglican league groups throughout the three counties (Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire). The security of the outlying market towns such as Ledbury and Bromyard are also affected by the security of Malvern. As a result the Royalist Army and BUF are increasingly setting up road blocks and garrisons in the area. The locals are also active via the Malvern Hills Conservators (MHC), in securing the area without the unwanted help of urban oiks.

As well as the British Royal family’s presence, in 1938, the exiled Ethiopian Imperial family are resident in the town, with the Emperor Hailie Selasie staying in The Abbey Hotel in the centre of the town, and his daughters attending school at Clarendon private school in the town.


The Malvern Hills run North-South for about 10 miles and rise sharply out of the flat Severn valley (aka Vale of Evesham), with the Worcester and Hereford Beacons the highest points having commanding views over the neighbouring counties. The Hereford Beacon (aka British Camp) is also an ancient hill fort with earth rings and a Norman motte and bailey on the very top. Just to the south is Midsummer hill, which was also an ancient hillfort but is now extensively wooded.There are two principle ways over the hills: The Wyche Cutting to the south of the Worcester Beacon; and via the pass at British Camp. There is a large water reservoir at British Camp that serves the town, and to the south of that is the Hollybush road that crosses the southern extremity of the hills. To the west of British Camp is the Eastnor Estate. West of the hills, is Herefordshire which inspired Tolkein’s description of The Shire in Lord Of The Rings – rolling hills with small valleys and small streams.

The town of Malvern itself, is made up of several urban areas separated by small open commons (grassland, and small woods) and are: Great Malvern (the centre); Malvern Wells and Little Malvern to the south; Malvern Link; North Malvern; and West Malvern. Madresfield, Guarlford and several other villages are further out but directly linked to Malvern. Each area of Malvern has its own shops and character. Malvern Link is more industrialised, whereas Great Malvern has many private schools, hotels and larger shops. There are train stations at Malvern Link, Great Malvern and Malvern Wells.

Malvern Link is the home to the Morgan Car company, which has now turned its hand to manufacturing Armoured Cars – hand tooled of course for the discerning military customer.

The quarries on the hills have a substantial number of workmen that have mostly not exhibited sympathy publicly for socialism, but undoubtedly there is a fifth column of agitators waiting for the right moment.

The public schools are bastions of Royalist sentiment, and the few Anglicans have long since been ousted. The cadets practice regularly on the school fields with their air-rifles, and the senior boys also have Lee-Enfields and live ammunition. The school masters are in close contact with the Malvern Hills Conservators and Royalist officers.

Malvern Link, Great Malvern and Guarlford are the main routes into Madresfield, and hence have the greatest number of Royalist troops and road blocks. The routes over the Malvern Hills are principally manned by BUF at the Wyche Cutting and British Camp. In addition, the hills are patrolled by the Malvern Hills Conservators militia. Royalist artillery has been sited on the slopes of the Worcester Beacon covering all of the area between the hills and the Severn.

Other Places of Interest
Bromyard, to the NNW of Malvern has its own railway station, and a large BUF garrison on the Bromyard Dwons, site of its racing course. Primarily a rural farming town the locals resent the BUF oiks intensely, even though they side with the Royalists. Local landowners have their own militia and often accidents happen. Bromyard is the forward staging post for the BUF and Royalists forces attacking the Anglicans and Welsh nationalists in eastern Herefordshire. As mentioned previously there is now an annual scarecrow festival, linked to the “Twiggy Mommet” rebellion.

Colwall, on the western sides of the Malvern Hills is currently quiet. It guards the railway tunnel under the hills, this is patrolled by BUF and Royalist units. So far the MHC is the only LDV active in the area. However, there are a number of rogue elements including spies from all factions utilising Colwall in efforts to get arms over the hills – or thwart such efforts.

Eastnor, is a hamlet to the SW of Malvern near Ledbury. There is a fine manor house with faux fortification and a large estate, which is inhabited by bandits and Anglicans. It is also on the road from Ledbury, via Hollybush over the hills and to the wilder areas of Castlemorton and Birtsmorton commons – a key smuggling route for the Anglicans and Socialists.

Ledbury is the birthplace of the Twiggy Mommet protest movement, and lies south west of the Malverns. It has its own railway station down the line from Colwall. The Anglicans are currently trying to subvert it, and there is a heavy Royalist presence. Ledbury is also a link between Gloucester and Leominster.


The Royalists are the most heavily entrenched here, with support from the Royal Court at Madresfield, private school cadet forces, and the Malvern Hills Conservators Militia. They have up to date equipment including the latest weaponry (Bren guns) and Tanks. They have troops at Madresfield, Powick, and Upton upon Severn (to control the bridge).

The BUF have placed prestige units at the Wyche cutting and British Camp, plus an honour guard at St Wulstan’s Church in Malvern Wells to preside of Elgar’s grave. They are generally unwelcome in Malvern itself, and view Bromyard as a good night out by comparison. Mosely is ensuring a large number of BUF units are present to keep an eye on the Royal court, and also to get combat experience in Hereford. He has left James Tyrrell in charge of these units. Tyrell, a former potato farmer, has high expectations of where his career will lead him. Their main garrison is on the Bromyard Downs (NNW of Malvern).

The Local Defence Volunteers, are the Malvern Hills Conservators, and are interpreting their legal duties loosely. They are preventing ‘encroachment’ on the hills – at gun point. The King is indulging this currently as it presents him with his own local militia that can be used to counter the BUF garrisons without compromising the Royal Army. They also have extensive knowledge of the region and are useful source of information. The Malvern Hills Conservators are allies with the Royalist Army, and reluctant allies of the BUF.

The other smaller LDVs regularly bait the BUF, in Ledbury and Bromyard. The two market towns have taken to holding Scarecrow Festivals and other Twiggy Mommet events where the scarecrows are dressed with BUF regalia. Local scrumpy cider fuels late night antics and the BUF are often the subject of random shots late at night from shotguns. Wassailing nights are regularly dreaded by the BUF, for the locals have a new tradition of firing shotguns over the apple trees

Anglicans have been ousted from all the churches and schools in Malvern, except for Little Malvern priory which is fighting a merger with other parishes with the support of its independent financial income and the Anglican agitators hiding out in the commons of Castlemorton, and Birtsmorton. Anglican forces also infest the Eastnor estate to the west of the hills.

These more wild areas are also home to a number of bandit gangs that are being paid to help smuggle arms over the hills. Conversely, the BUF are also paying them to carry out less pleasant tasks !

The final wild card in all this is Hailie Sellasie, the exiled Ethiopian Emperor. With his daughters at Clarendon School, he has sought refuge in The Abbey Hotel in Great Malvern itself. As a guest of the King, he has managed to establish a platoon of Ethiopian Askaris and Royalist bodyguards for “protection”. Naturally, they are at odds with the BUF troops given Mosely’s current admiration for Mussollini’s fascist regime.

Over the border in Worcestershire

The chaps at the Evesham Wargames Club have been gaming VBCW for some time now, and have an excellent blog which details their Worcester campaign (in which Anglican Leaguers from Herefordshire often feature).

Check out 'For God, England & King Edward - Wargaming in an alternative 1930's Britain'

The tale of Twiggy Mommet, A very British protest

My main contribution to VBCW mythology is the Twiggy Mommet phenomenon - a rural protest movement where the agitators dress up as scarecrows in order to defy the authorities. This is what I wrote about it on the GWP...

Herefordshire, once the centre of Anglican resistance, had only been under Royalist rule for a few weeks when Tom Corbin, a keen market gardener, placed a scarecrow wearing a BUF armband in his Ledbury allotment, in protest at the new authorities' levy on the sale of foodstuffs.

Keen to stamp out any signs of dissent, the governor of Hereford sent a BUF patrol to investigate. Corbin was duly arrested, his goods confiscated and his scarecrow publicly burned in the centre of town. Job done.

However a few nights later, a strange mob marched down Ledbury high street. Dressed in old clothes, their hands covered with rags and their faces with hop sacks, they broke into the local gaol, bound the constable on duty and demanded the release of Mr. Corbin from captivity. Upon hearing that he had already been let off with a caution, they contended themselves with tearing up any official papers they could find, before making a hasty exit at the approach of police reinforcements.

A note pinned on the door of the gaol, addressed to the governor from 'Twiggy Mommet, King of the Scarecrows', stated that the attack was in retribution for the 'unlawful murder by fire of one of my subjects in the once happy town of Ledbury.'

Soon other scarecrows were cropping up around the county, not only in the fields and gardens of suspected Anglican supporters but also, under cover of darkness, the estates of leading royalists. Some bore BUF insignia, while others were made up in effigy of the King or his new wife. Many of them wore pieces of clothing previously stolen or snatched from BUF members, such as sidecaps and armbands. The authorities duly removed and destroyed these mannequins, which in turn led to further disturbances by 'scarecrow' mobs, wielding various agricultural implements, in revenge for these 'killings of our straw brethren'.

Determined to nip this embryonic rural protest movement in the bud, the BUF laid a trap by arresting a well-known local postmistress, one Ms. Prudence Powell, after secretly erecting their own scarecrow in her garden. Sure enough Twiggy Mommet's subjects came out to free the stricken damsel. This time however, no doubt due to some well-placed local informants, they had swapped their pitchforks and scythes for rifles and shotguns.

Blood was spilled and lives were lost, but Twiggy Mommet's scarecrow army marched on, leaving their gardens, allotments and fields to protect any Herefordians wronged by the authorities and their BUF henchmen.

I also thought about a royalist group...

Dearest Mater,

I write to you in the most tip-top of spirits, after not only having a most productive day at the races yesterday, but also after taking part of the most madcap of escapades!

Lady Luck was shining upon your number one son, together with Bunty, 'Nobbler' Ffipps, 'Sausage' and the rest of the gang. It was race day, and we'd all made a rather pretty packet on Dandy Lad - Lord Bigglesworth's horse. Flush with victory, we retired that evening to 'Chopper' Chigwell's pad, Shortbrook Manor, for a beverage or two.

While originally hailing from the Americas, Cincinnati to be precise, Chopper had thrown himself into the life of an English gentleman of means ever since purchasing the manor some years ago. In doing so he had naturally pledged his allegiance to the King when all this trouble started - for in even in this quiet corner of Buckinghamshire the rumblings of rebellion are not far away.

Now, it transpires that some of the locals had taken umbrage against the poor fellow's stance: most notably his raising of the rents in order to help equip the Bucks Blackshirts. Talk over Cognac soon turned to this, and how some of the local Johnnies had had the temerity to cause a fuss over it. Apparently some of them, aping this ridiculous fashion for dressing up and planting scarecrows in the grounds of their superiors, had plonked one right in the middle of Chopper's front lawn!

'We'll not stand for this!' we exclaimed. 'If they wish to play silly blighters, then so shall we!'

Now, being an American, Chopper always gets a little loopy over Halloween and, it being near that time of year, Shortbrook Manor was full of fake cobwebs, pretend spiders and wotnot and, of course, hollowed out pumpkins.

'I know,' said 'Noodle' Smyth, 'let's dress up as pumpkins and give these scarecrow fellows a taste of their own medicine!'

And so, an hour or so later, we crept upon The Spaniard's Arms - headquarters of these miscreants. Our heads encased by pumpkins, our bodies protected by bits of armour from Shortbrook's ancient armoury, we advanced into the very heart of rebellion!

Oh dearest Ma you should have seen their terror stricken faces! With cudgels flying we dispersed the evil-doers and put paid to whatever outrage they were planning. Laden with a wheelbarrow full of broken scarecrows, we marched triumphantly back to the Manor, proclaiming to all who would listen that His Highness, and the rightful government of England, had a new champion - the Royal Order of the Knights of the Pumpkin Patch!

Your affectionate, etc.

PS: Can you recommend a suitable method for removing pumpkin seeds from one's hair?

PPS: How does one go about making Papier-mâché?

'Post Bishop' Herefordshire

One of the most attractive facets of VBCW is being able to research the history of your own area and interweave elements of this into a fictional narrative. I did just that for my fair county when I first started writing on the GWP...

With the defeat and capture of the Bishop of Hereford, the local population, being in the main a rather conservative lot, broadly welcomed the Royalists into the county. However these authorities, distrustful of the locals and unwilling to arm them, struggled to fill the power vacuum left by the departing Anglicans with the small amount of forces at their disposal (the bulk of government/BUF troops leaving for the Severn Valley campaign).

Herefordshire's rural idyll has therefore been disturbed by robbery, raids and skirmishes carried out by a number of armed groups. Along the Welsh border, Welsh nationalists have been probing the county's defences from bases in Powys, casting acquisitive glances at North Herefordshire, Kington and the Golden Valley, with the eventual view of pushing the border of Wales up to the River Wye and thus reclaiming the Marches.

Further south, Anglican fighters that have evaded capture have drifted towards Ross-on-Wye, where the population has come under the thrall of a firebrand Welsh vicar, the Reverend Henry Meredith - the 'Bishop of Ross-on-Wye'. An embryonic Anglican force is coalescing around this cleric, supported by Welsh nationalists from occupied Monmouthshire, who hope that the newly declared 'Diocese of Archenfield' will act not only as a temporary 'buffer state', but also a land bridge between Wales and Anglican areas in the West Country and ultimately a springboard for further expansion.

The town of Ledbury is also under the shadow of the Anglican league, there being an Anglican enclave holed up in the nearby Malvern Hills, just across the border in Worcestershire. These forces are looking to link up with the Diocese of Archenfield by capturing the not-unsympathetic market town.

Herefordshire has also fallen prey to a number of socialist groups from the West Midlands, who have infiltrated the county in the guise of seasonal workers during the fruit and hop picking season. These groups are now actively agitating among local farm workers, leading to the reformation of the National Agricultural Labourers Union (NALU) and armed cadres operating under its banner.

Added to the Welsh, Anglican and the socialist menace, bands of brigands and mercenaries roam the county, selling their services to the highest bidder or taking advantage of the weak central authority to raid isolated farms for their ample food stocks before the onset of winter.

To counter all these threats the local government could at one stage only rely upon a single, rather unpopular, company of BUF, sent to patrol the county from London and garrisoned at Bromyard. Their forces have since been augmented by an auxiliary 'Blackshort' company raised in an around Leominster by one Eustace Spode, nephew of the great underwear magnate, who was obliged to take up lodgings in the county following an unfortunate misunderstanding with another young man in a gentleman's convenience near Hyde Park. The BUF and Blackshorts have formed the 'King Offa Legion' with the aim of clearing the county of 'leftists, nationalists and bandits.'

However relying on an armed fascist force does not sit well with most Herefordians and, despite orders to the contrary, the local gentry have taken to arming their estate workers and tenants. These militias, such as The Foley Manor Fencibles and Abbeydore Rangers, have come together under the banner of the Landowner's Protection Association (LPA) - a loosely knit organisation headed by landowners of varying political persuasion. One of the most colourful LPA units is the Hereford Hunt Hussars - a unit of mounted rifles (despite the Hussar appellation) formed by several keen young chaps from the local fox hunts.

Hereford city council has also bowed to popular pressure and allowed the formation of armed volunteer units. These consist of the Herefordshire Constabulary rifles, the 'Hereford Bulls' Veterans Association and the Hereford City LDV: a militia unit of trusted citizens. This 'Hereford Brigade' maintains an uneasy alliance with the King Offa Legion and the LPA - all of whom are ready for oncoming battle to protect Herefordshire and keep the county for the King (unless, perhaps, a more legitimate claimant happens to come along...)

Herefordshire at the start of the civil war

Before I became interested in wargaming the VBCW, 'Hastings' - proprietor of Solway Crafts & Miniatures and one of the originators of the genre, had included the county in his Severn valley campaign, which pitted the Royalists against the Anglican League.

The following quotes from the Genltemen's Wargames Parlour gives a brief history of how the Herefordians fared...

Ok brief plot. Army of the Severn valley trying to secure base of operations for King in Shropshire/Worcestershire/ Gloucester corridor. The Bishops of Gloucester and Worcester have been replaced by the 'King's Men' but this has added support to opposition groups. Two forces of Anglican Leaguers are mustering one with the Bishop of Hereford and a second group on the edge of the Costwolds. This second group led by Sir Cyril Stanley (ex Anglican Missionary and amateur archaeologist!) has set up a forward base in the vale of Evesham at Bredon Hill.

A very Disasterous Engagement.
While much a do has been occuring in the sunny vale of Evesham on the other side of the Severn valley things are hotting up. B company1/Grenadier Guards has been posted to the small town of Bromyard on the road between Worcester and Hereford. Having organized the defence of the town with local forces the company has been making a recce in the direction of Hereford trying to ascertain the strength the Bishop of Hereford can muster.

A quiet few days have passed without contact with the enemy and the Guards have established a CHQ at a farm near Bishop's Frome. Following a quiet night 3 platoons set out on patrol while the HQ platoon settle in a gun team from Kings troop RHA. With the troubles to the east supplies have been eratic and the days inspection finds the RHA with only 3 rounds for the 18 Pounder. Messengers are dispatched down the line to Bromyard requesting more ammo. However contemplation of logistics is interupted by rifle fire from a nearby hill targetted at the farm. No2 platoon patrolling close by break into skirmish order and engage the rifle group inflicting a casualty, but the enemy marksmen switch positions getting out of the arc of fire and continue sniping at the farm taking out a stores clerk.

The troublsome snipers at 9 oclock are aided by more militia platoons apearing at 12 and 6 oclock the other two patrols move to engage when a further platoon appears on the flank at 3 oclock. No1 platoon starts driving back the platoon at 6 oclock but on the next turn they are reinforced and a concentrated gunfight ensues. No2 platoon is caught in the flank as it assaults the hill top position at 6 oclock. No3 platoon faces the twin assaults at 12 and 3 oclock. The RHA get into action gamely plugging away in support of No1 platoon which soon has the two platoons there beaten and on the run. Inspection of enemy bodies reveals this is not only the work of Hereford's Anglian League but they have joined forces with Welsh Nationalists.

The snipers at 9 oclock re engage no2 platoon and the weight of numbers start to drive the platoon back along the track towards the farm. At 9 and 12 oclock No3 platoon is caught in a deadly cross fire as a third enemy platoon arrives on the scene, finally reduced to 2 unharmed riflemen the Guards platoon breaks, leaving the bloodied but still competant militia platoons to advance on the farm. The Gunners, now out of gun ammo and the HQ platoon are manning makeshift barricades to stave off the attack. N02 platoon keeps the enemy back at 9 oclock allowing No1 platoon to reform and counter the attack on the farm.

They succeed in routing one platoon but the second one has a high complement of LMG's and the attack stalls and as second league platoon turns on No1 platoon they are overwhelmed. Also reduced to 2 men No2 platoon gets to the outer wall of the farm before they are finished off by snipers. In the farm Company commander Major Stanley Laker and Colour Sargeant Oswald Rashbourne command the defences. Laker goes down revolver in hand while Rashbourne covers the retreat of the wounded from building to building until finally cornered he goes down swinging his now empty Lewis gun. By mid day the farm is burning and the battered remains of the league and nationalist forces carry off their prize- the 18 pounder.

++ Urgent++Official Communique to his Majesty King Edward VIII.
It is with great regret that I must inform his Majesty of the disasterous engagement that took place earlier today between B company1/ Grenadier Guards assisted by a Battery from Kings Troop RHA and the allied forces of Welsh Nationalists and the Anglian league nearby the village of Bishop's Frome, Herefordshire. Despite the highest standards of gallantry, professionalism and bravery, the Royal forces were totally overwhelmed by a numerically superior force. At this time we know of only two survivors.
Lord Cirencester ADC

A victory for the Bishop of Hereford, but elsewhere the Anglican League wasn't doing so well. The Bishop's forces now found themselves attempting to take a river crossing at Upton-upon-Severn.

The Battle of Upton
Smarting from the pasting they recieved on Tuesday, sir Cyril Stanley's Anglican leaguers were in a tight spot. With Royalist and Fascist forces closing on their Cotswold bases radical action was required. But the maps the extent of the Anglican's plight. To the West was the barrier of the River Severn with limited crossing points a formidable obstacle. To the North, East and South were Royal Forces in Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. There was talk of a gathering Anglican alliance centred on Bath with a supply line now established back to Kent but there was no way in their present condition Stanley's men could fight through the Royalist and Fascist positions guarding the way. The only hope then was to find a way over the Severn and link up with the Bishop of Hereford.

Communications were sent by courier, carrier pidgeon, telephone and eventually radio. The Bishop welcomed the idea and prepossed to seize the crossing of the severn at Upton. This was a totally audacious plan as the bridge was only a few miles from the King's HQ at Madresfield. But during Friday night Herefords own men and some of his Welsh allies seized the bridge and village of Upton, put in defended positions and awaited the breakout of the Cotswold Brigade. Stanley's men had also set off on Friday night but had made slow progress as they tried to evade the shadowing force of BUF. Eventually the Brigade reached some woods about half a mile down hill to the bridge.

But first on to the scene was the repaired MK1 panzer of Cirencester's Guard on a mission to recon the bridge ahead of the fleeing Anglicans. But the Bishop of Hereford's men had two suprises for the Fascists. Firstly an elderly SE5 WW1 vintage aircraft buzed along the valley floor mapping the movements of the enemy and the progress in the race for the bridge. At the same time Major Loughbridge-Evans commanding the forces within Upton ordered his newly aquired 2 pdr anti tank gun to engage the mk1.
Sadly the crew were raw, not used to the weapon and the shell scared the earth not the tank.But it was enough to send the tank swerving for cover and ended its forward momentum.

On paralell roads units of the BUF and Anglican league were emerging. Cirencester's Alarm Company leading for the Fascists , the French Volunteers leading the Anglicans. The French found cover behind some wooden fencing bordering the road and opened up on the Fascists but failed to check their advance. Soon the French were caught in a crossfire between the Fascist infantry and the retreating MK1. The French broke and two supply trucks following behind were torched. The BUF were setting their sights on dominating the road when out of the woods march the US volunteers with a heavy complement of 3 Lmgs. In2 turns fortune's wheel had turned and it was now three platoons of Fascits that were taking fire. Then the unthinkable happened and the green Anti-tank crew scored a direct hit on the panzer, after a platoon of Herefordshire territorials had failed in a attemp to crow bar and grenade it.

At the north and west end of the Royal forces were starting to arrive. The Ghurkas supporting a MKvI went in search of their fascist allies while the company of Grenadier Guards present were keen for revenge on the Herefordshires after the massacre of their A company started to send scouts over the River.

The Guards first platoon came under heavy fire from a Welsh Militia platoon. The Guards second platoon hesitated and confusion tempoaraly reigned. While the Guards were sorting themselves out the Machine Gun platoon came up , spraying the western bank and causing the Welsh to break and panic. Private Andrews, first platoon, A Coy won the MC during this action. He was the only unwounded survivor to reach the West bank, he then charged the enemy positions with his Lewis Gun before being cut down.
Back at the Bridge the first elements of the Cottswold Brigade had joined their allies. The Anglican League Militia crossed flags high While the French and Americans formed the rear guard. In the middle of it all was Sir Stanley riding his bay charger urging his men onward. He was accompained by his trustee batman and personal standard bearer George Parker-Smythe, a trustee family retainer from his days of Missionary Work in China and Africa. Stanley's flag as well as bearing the insignia of the Anglican League had added to it the words 'Onward Christian soldiers'.

All this activity was too much provication for the newly arrived RHa battery whose two guns opened up with near disasterous results for the Anglican's. One shell missed a truck and instead scythed down Sir Stanley's horse, a second shell hit the HQ dugout of Major Loughborough Evans killing him out right. Two more shells crashed into the French Company and when this was repeated they broke for the second time fleeing south along the eastern bank of the Severn.

The Machine Gun platoon with the Guards had moved to a more advantagous position that brought the bridge into their sights, but as they prepared to fire, Flight Lieutenant(retired) Henry Wood appeared over the battlefield in his SE5 again and scored a magnificent strike on the machine guns, knocking out one team and causing the rest to pull back to the cover of the woods. In the failing light the Americans and the French armoured car disengaged and crossed the bridge, the French Company was later ferried over by boat but unfortunately the company was by then reduced to platoon size.

All in all the Anglican League had done well, on two occasions it seemed a Royalist Victory was going to occur only for the situation to rapidly change.

The Guards and Lord Cirencester's men performed bravely but didnt see any results for their courage. The French company were their usual mix of enthusiasm and unpredictability, while the Americans proved solid in the fire support and rear guard roles.

The Bishop's forces then pulled back into Herefordshire as the Royalists entered the county.

The Deadly Crossroads at Bromyard
The village of Bromyard today became the latest scene of conflict between Royalist/BUF forces and the Anglican League. Both forces aiming to control the roads between Hereford and Worcester saw this as an important target.

With the village to the centre and the areas around dominated by stonewalls, hedgerows and copses the terrain was ideal Infantry country- only both sides had brought motorized/mechanized forces. Two platoons of Grenadier Guards had formed an ad-hoc mechanized unit working with a BUF mk1 and a RTR MkvI They made good time and were on the road marking the East-West axis before the leaguers had deployed. Having taken out a league anti tank gun and won a duel with the notorious French Half track Charlemagne.(only after the French tried to ram the MKvI , their guns having failed) the tanks got seperated from their support and luckily survived a molotov attack when venturing along the main street. The Guards were fighting both French infantry and new league volunteers, Normally an unequal struggle but the Guards were suprised by a milita shotgun volley when terrain forced them to bunch closely. one platoon had to retreat because of its casulties leaving the other platoon to fight it out in the close terrain.

Mean while across the road behind a stone wall a Buf hmg did its best to keep the enemy back. In the centre of the village a unit of BUF militia and the Evesham Irregulars cleared a hmg from one house and tried to assault a second interrupted by two fly pasts by the demon se5 liberally dropping flamming bottles and other improvised explosive devices, while escaping retalitory lmg fire. Flt Lt Henry Wood(retired) is certainly gaining a reputation for excellent close air support! On the Royalist right the third platoon of Guards were in trouble, the American support platoon was inflicting heavy casualties and an armoured car was firing into their flank. The situation was only saved by the arrival of the two tanks that kept the Americans pinned. As darkness drew in neither side controlled the village, but during the night the leaguers took the opportunity to fall back and organise for a new offensive.

With support and supplies running low, time was running out for an increasingly isolated Bishop of Hereford.

In the meantime the Royal forces have been successfully taking apart the Bishop of Hereford's forces to the West of Worcester. Despite some initial success the Bishop is now running low on supplies and the local population is far from supportive. BUF General A.A. Fielding has been experimenting with light tanks and lorry borne infantry with devastating effect bringing him within ear shot of the bells of Hereford

Abandoning Hereford 10th September, the Bishop's forces were trying to move south West hoping that they might meet up with an often promised Ang League offensive. The Bishop had one last card to play. From his temporary HQ he broadcasts to the population of the Severn Valley. ' Despite the despotic behaviour of the King and his Prime Minister the people of Britain now have a choice, Despite the abandonment of Britain by the rest of the Royal Family our people do now have a choice - God save King John!' a moment later a different slightly nervous voice is heard obviously reading a prepared statement ' I am John, Prince John soon to be crowned by the will of the British People King, I have long been kept from my people by my family and its ministers, even going so far as to say that I had died in my youth. But now in my Country's hour of despair I am with you and invite you to take arms against your oppressors' A chorus off mike shout God save the King , God save King John

Although out of range of the repeated broadcast the news of the announcement filters through to command centres on all sides. The King is at first brought to tears by the news but as he composes himself the anger builds and he commands his officials 'the capture of this pretender to the throne is now your primary responsibility'

At League temporary HQ near Oxford There is consternation and considerable anger that Hereford will bring down considerable Royalist forces into the Tewkesbury area. But a realisation that it is too late to call off the offensive and that somehow they now also have to rescue a pretender.

Hereford has only survived thanks to the additional troops he got from the early Cotswold command of Sir Cyril Stanley in addition Hereford had been dealing with the Welsh Nationalists along the border. They had provided some experienced fighters and units which have kept the war going with the loss of Hereford itself. However they were initially none too pleased with the Bishop's plan for 'King John' refusing to pledge themselves to any English Monarch. Desperate to keep his small force together the Bishop has agreed that if successful the new King will grant a free and Independent Welsh state. Still not totally convinced, not least by their chances of success the Welsh agree to continue the fight alongside the Bishop, if for no other reason, than it will cause another problem for Edward's Royalists.

The Bishop's final throw of the dice was his participation in the first 'big game' - the culmination of the Severn Valley campaign which saw fighting at Shrewsbury, Evesham, Tewkesbury and Worcester. The Herefordians and 'King John' fight valiantly, but in the end are overcome by the Royalists. The Bishop of Hereford's hare-brained scheme to install a pretender on the throne ends in ingominious failure as he is carted off to the tower, leaving Herefordshire to the mercy of the King.