Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Meg roars again!

What better represents the homemade eccentricity of the VBCW genre than dusting off a 17th century artillery piece, giving it a lick of paint and then pressing it into service! Herefordshire is proud to possess such a piece – Roaring Meg.

Model and figures (with a little Milliput) from Warlord Game's ECW range, except the officer with binoculars, which is from Great War Miniatures
Roaring Meg was born in 1646, right in the midst of the English Civil War. During the siege of Royalist-held Goodrich Castle (whence Sir Henry Lingen and the Royalist forces had fled after being ousted from Hereford), Parliamentarian Colonel John Birch ordered the casting of a mortar in the nearby Forest of Dean. With a 15.5 inch barrel diameter and firing a 2 hundredweight hollow ball filled with gunpowder, Roaring Meg was the largest mortar of the war.

Roaring Meg in Hereford

She was put to good use during the siege, with Colonel Birch personally firing the last 19 balls. “By reason of a great mortorpiece you made there (the biggest in England) the enimy was terrified, much of the inner part of the castle ffalen downe, and the roofs spoyled,” wrote Birch’s secretary.

After the Royalist garrison in Goodrich Castle surrendered, Birch arranged for Roaring Meg to be taken to Hereford. Here she spent many ignominious years standing upside-down as a corner-post at the corner of Gwynne Street and Bridge Street, outside the inn to which it gave its name (renamed in 1861 to the St. Catherine Wheel inn).

She was rescued from this indignity in 1839, when it was given pride of place on the Castle Green, a pleasant recreation spot on the site of the old castle near the Cathedral and the River Wye. Here she stood, flanked by two cannon until 1965, when she was moved to the newly opened Churchill Gardens (in honour of Sir Winston Churchill after his death in that year) on Aylestone Hill (also the site of a museum and gallery dedicated to the works of local artist Brian Hatton. Once a private home, this building is now somewhat neglected).

Roaring Meg at Goodrich Castle
Roaring Meg returned to Goodrich Castle, on loan from Herefordshire Council, in 2004 and there she remains at the time of writing, restored and standing proudly on display.

Roaring Meg in the VBCW

During the formation of the Hereford Municipal LDV, it became apparent that some kind of artillery would be needed. However all available guns, few that there were, had already been appropriated either by the fascist paramilitaries, the TA or had been lost/smuggled to the Anglican League.

The powers that be contacted one Major Barneby – a retired Royal Artillery Officer who farmed a few miles outside the city. Known to be a military history enthusiast and something of an expert on antique firearms, Barneby was tasked with surveying the many old cannons scattered around the accessible parts of the county in private collections and public ornamentation.

Barneby discounted most of the pieces he uncovered, deeming them unsuitable due to their age, condition and the relatively short range at which they would be effective. However the mortar ‘Roaring Meg’ did have potential – if the old girl could be coaxed back into life, the longer range of such a siege weapon might take its crew out of rifle range and at least make a bang big enough to deter any adversary. Roaring Meg was thus removed to Barneby’s workshop, where she was restored into something like a working condition and remounted. Barneby also cast a number of hollow balls, filled with homemade gunpowder and trained a handpicked crew of brave and/or foolish farmworkers to assist him in the operation of this venerable mortar.

Roaring Meg now takes its place in the armoury of the Hereford Municipal LDV, ready to defend the city against all aggressors – although Lord knows what will happen when she is fired again for the first time in nigh-on 300 years!


  1. That is the absolutely VBCW down to a tee!

  2. Great idea and lovely execution! I've got a spare Gatling from some colonial stuff I just bought and I had a very similar idea. As MM says, 100% VBCW. ;-)

  3. Marvelous! I love the weapon and both versions of her history. Long may she roar!

  4. Thanks folks - it was quite challenging to convert the ECW crew into something near a 1930's look.

  5. Jon - Phenomenal post! I love the way you weave local history into your games. I visited Goodrich Castle in the pouring rain in 2004, just after Roaring Meg returned there. It's a fine artillery piece, and the Castle is a great visit as well. I'm interested to know what rules you're thinking of using for deployment of Roaring Meg on the battlefield. There just has to be a chance she explodes! Again, a truly wonderful post. (Oh yes, and I liked the figures!)

    1. Thanks mate! One of the plus points of VBCW is setting it in your own back yard and all the research that goes with it.

      Giles has dug out his Warhammer historical rules, so we'll probably use some elements from that. Possibly a range of 12" - 48" and a blast template of 1d6". That's after spotting, rolling for deviation and checking for misfires first!


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