Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Very British Civil Forum

A brand new forum has been created especially for the Very British Civil War!

It can be found at

Please take a look and join the madness!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Herefordshire in the (Pathé) News

I can while away many an hour trawling through the British Pathé archives, especially clips of interwar Herefordshire, such as these…

A smashing clip showing the citizens of Hereford enjoying the delights of the May Fair, situated in an absolutely heaving High Town. The rides shown include the swing seat, dodgems, merry-go-round etc.

The National Cross Country Championship, presumably held at the Racecourse, judging by the gas works in the background.

Another National Cross Country Championship race.

Footage aplenty of the Hereford Bull at the Three Counties Show in Hereford, before it moved to its permanent home at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Randall Thomas Davidson, 1st Baron Davidson of Lambeth) visits Hereford to commemorate the 1,250th anniversary of the Diocese. Footage includes a procession of civic dignitaries up Broad Street and clergy and choristers emerging from the Bishop's Palace.

Sir Robert Baden Powell takes the salute as he attends a rally of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in Hereford.

A procession of civic dignitaries make their way through a crowded High Town as they revive the 'Beating the Bounds' ceremony - the ancient custom of marking out the boundaries of the city.

The last section of this film features Mr C H Leake on his Hereford farm and his home-made astronomical telescope.

Various shots of historic buildings and picturesque scenes around the county.

Footage of the Kington sheep market, including the auctioneer practising his trade.

Herefordians gather as Queen Mary arrives in the city to dedicate the new George V playing fields, unveiling a plaque from the comfort of her car.

Play your cards right...

Silly impulse purchase time...

A pack of c.1936 Edward VIII coronation playing cards, made by Universal Playing Cards.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Foray into Wales

Me 'n' Giles forsook the sunny Herefordshire countryside for the bustling metropolis of Cardiff on Saturday, for a VBCW Big Game held in the massive gaming caverns of Firestorm Games, organised by GWP patrons Tym and 'Captain Bigglesmay'.

The ambitious Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire had decided to grab a slice of Wales for the Shropshire Free State. Since the Salopians had assisted the Herefordian royalists in the siege of Ledbury, it seemed only fair that they returned the favour. The royalist forces duly crossed the border from Shropshire into Montgomeryshire and advanced along the Severn valley towards Welshpool. It was along this valley that they met opposition from the Welsh nationalists.

The valley from the Welsh perspective
The table represented the valley - dotted with buildings, fields and defence works, hemmed in by rough hills and with the river and a railway line running along its length. The royalists' aim was to advance along the length of the table and roll up the Welsh barring their path.

'Captain Bigglesmay', 'Ciderfella' and I took the role of the royalists, while Giles, ‘Swiper Esq.', Tym, and some of his chums played the Welsh nationalists.

Various shots of the battlefield

The aim of the day was to try out the 'Went the Day Well?' rules in anticipation of the next Evesham Big Game. While ‘WTDW?’ is designed for platoon level (30-40 figs approx.) games, we played here with much bigger formations (over 100 figs per player). Tym also introduced a fog of war element borrowed from the Principles of War rules, in which each platoon was initially represented by a large piece of card. The opposing player had to successfully 'spot' this card to reveal the actual formation and put figures on the table (with an automatic reveal when the formation closed in on said opponent). Each side also had some 'phantom' cards, which would reveal nothing if successfully spotted.

Note the 'fog of war' cards
The Herefordian forces took the right flank and consisted of a platoon of BUF (2 infantry units, HMG, RASE motorised unit, tank busters, armoured car and command), a Blackshorts platoon (3 infantry, HMG, anti-tank rifle, 2 improvised armoured vans and command), volunteer famers (2 shotgun units and 2 groups of scarecrow protestors, 1 with firearms) and a platoon of militia (3 infantry, an improvised armoured van and 'Roaring Meg'). I also had the use of an armoured train, the arrival of which I had to dice for at the start of each round.

In the centre Captain Bigglesmay fielded the Shropshire royalists, including units from King Edward's Shrewsbury Light Regiment, the KSLI and the GPO while Ciderfella's Italian Catholic royalists took to the hills on the left.

L: KSLI advance, R: Welsh nationalists

L: The BUF, R: The Blackshorts

I decided to advance my Blackshirts/shorts along the right flank, roughly along the railway line, with the farmers in support. I held the militia back in the centre on the other side of the river to provide covering fire in the case of a counterattack.

The BUF advance
Facing me the Welsh soon opened up a withering fire, with my BUF taking two direct hits from Welsh mortars - once again I was in a Big Game facing superior artillery fire! Luckily the BUF's nerve held and despite taking casualties, they reached the Welsh first line of defence in some woodlands and returned fire, causing the untrained Welsh militia to waver.

Casualties taken
The Blackshorts also took casualties as they advanced, with the 'phantom' card I was hoping would screen them from the Welsh trenches in the centre being quickly spotted away. My two armoured vans were soon knocked out of action by artillery fire and ground to a halt on the railway line, joined by the BUF's armoured car which suffered a puncture, thanks to a chance card.

Blackshorts advance amid the wreckage
To my left, the Salopians crossing of the Severn over a bridge halted for a brew, depriving the Herefordians of the support I was hoping for. Meanwhile the Catholics slowly picked their way along the hills, trying unsuccessfully to spot the various Welsh formations that lurked behind the main defences and thus ascertain what they were up against.

Wavering Welsh
Undaunted the Herefordians continued their assault, pushing back the hard-pressed, jumpy Welsh on the flank. This was achieved with a combination of BUF fire, the threat of being outflanked by the farmers and scarecrows and possibly a growing dissatisfaction of the slowness of the game from my opponent (one of Tym's mates).

Armoured train arrives while the farmers deploy
By now the armoured train had arrived, giving me some much needed artillery support. My first worry was that it would mow down the Blackshorts advancing along the line, but luckily I was assured that it was travelling slowly enough to brake in time! Seeing that Shropshire's finest were not budging, I was also keen to bring my militia into the fray, but due to my poor initial placing, they were unable to cross the river as the only bridge was blocked by the stationary KSLI. I contented myself with bringing Roaring Meg within firing range of the central trench.

Back on my right flank, the BUF occupied the vacated defence works while the scarecrows began to clamber up the valley side. The Welsh had somewhat reformed and presented a formidable second defence line, with HMGs, artillery and mortars (perhaps my opponent wasn't so dissatisfied after all!). Luckily the BUF advance was aided by a heavy fog (event card) which reduced visibility and thus dampened the fire of the Welsh big guns.
The Welsh withdraw to new positions
In the centre, the Blackshorts were exchanging lively fire with the Welsh in the trenches and adjoining building. With supporting fire from the train and roaring Meg (which, after two misfires, scored a direct hit on the building!), the nationalists' backbone began to crumble. By now the Blackshorts finally had the Salopian support they required to press their advantage, with a veritable horde of GPO units crossing the bridge to engage the centre.

The central defences bombarded
An event card caused the GPO mounted rocket team to canter forward around the rear of the centre defences. Making the best of this involuntary move they charged a unit of supporting Welsh militia, spurring their infantry counterparts to make a head-on charge against the trenches. Not to be outdone, the Blackshorts' elite Sidcup Highlanders also charged, clearing the trench at bayonet point. The Blackshorts also cleared and occupied the adjacent building.

Charging the trenches

While the Catholics, save the occasional mortar shot from the Welsh, were still in the dark about the composition of their foe and continued to probe along the left flank, on the other flank the BUF and farmers began to shoot up the Welsh from their new positions. The Welsh HMGs were quickly silenced, while the farmers and scarecrows kept the artillery occupied with a largely inaccurate fire while their comrades continued to gather for a new assault.

Dealing with the 2nd line

By now time was running out as we had to make the journey back from Cardiff to meet baby/cat sitting duties and so a halt was called. While the royalists hadn't advanced along the full length of the valley, the main Welsh defences had been taken and with many of the unrevealed Welsh formations being phantoms it was decided that the nationalists would have withdrawn, leaving the valley under royalist control.

The trenches are captured
All in all I had a fantastic game. Yes the WTDW? rules proved too unwieldy for such a large scale battle, but in fairness they are not designed for this. Yes at times the pace was a little slow, but that serves us right for not familiarising ourselves with the rules as much as we could have done. Yes some of the players hardly got to put figures on the table, but this was due to the axis of advance and force deployment. Personally I got the lion's share of the action and showed that the loyal forces of Herefordshire know how to win a battle occasionally!

The Welsh withdraw
More importantly I got to catch up with some of my virtual chums on the GWP, and make one or two new ones too!

The GWP forum thread regarding this game can be found here, while Giles’ version of events can be read here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Pressmen: Bulston’s cider makers’ militia

 The Hereford City Municipal LDV has received some more reinforcements today in the form of the ‘Pressmen’: private militia of Bulston’s - makers of premier Hereford cider.

With the county in the grip of civil war, apple scrumping is rife – not to mention the hijacking of delivery lorries and drays that still travel in and out of Bulston’s various cider factories and depots despite the troubles. To combat this, the board of directors have ploughed some of the firm’s profits into training and equipping a unit of volunteers from throughout the business.

Fruit thieves, prohibitionists and black market cider sellers beware, for the Pressmen are on patrol!

(Figures mainly Musketeer LDV with two converted Aritzan Foreign Legionnaires)

‘Turned out nice again hasn’t it?’

(The following to be read with clipped BBC pronunciation to the stirring notes of the British Pathé theme tune)

The sleepy town of Hereford has awoken to the jolly melodies of that star of radio, stage and screen George Frimby, who has returned to his native soil to do his bit!

Following a successful career in entertainment, the Herefordshire Hollerer has joined the local Hereford City LDV as morale officer, bringing his trademark banjolele and prop lamppost with him.  Far from the music halls of London, the Tupsley Troubador is now entertaining the troops with his cheeky numbers, such as ‘With My Little Stick of Dynamite’, ‘Work Camp Laundry Blues’ and ‘When I’m Breaking Windows’.

[Clip of Frimby singing ‘Loitering ‘round the Lamppost’ to a group of bemused militiamen]

‘Our George’ got into a bit of trouble a while back, after his latest song, ‘Grandad's Flannelette Blackshirt’, was deemed too risqué by the authorities. And so at the risk of being labelled politically subversive, Frimby has returned to Hereford to make amends and will be accompanying his fellow defenders of Britain into their next battle – go get ‘em George!

(George Formby miniature by Eureka)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Skirmish on the Lugg Flats

So I had an evening to myself and a copy of the Brink of Battle universal skirmish rules to try out – a small solo game was on the cards! While I had plenty of miniatures to game with, I lacked scenery (apart from a few scratch built walls) and a gaming table, so the floor would suffice.

But where in Herefordshire could this flat, featureless terrain represent? Why, the Lugg Flats of course!

The Lugg Meadows

Known locally as the Lugg Flats, the Lugg Meadows are a rare example of the ancient Lammas Meadow system. Lying on the River Lugg flood plain along the eastern flank of Hereford, these meadows are enriched with silt from the river during the flood season, allowing the growth of a particularly diverse flora which in turn makes for high quality hay.

Ownership of the meadows are split between various interested parties, ranging from local farmers to the Church, and the land is parcelled into strips or irregular shapes, with the boundaries of each area demarcated by ‘dole stones’ - pillars of stone set in the ground and carrying initials and dates of ownership carved upon them. This system of tenure has existed for centuries, avoiding the enclosure act.

Each year, from February 2nd (Candlemas) to August 1st (Lammas) the meadows are closed or 'shut up for hay', with no grazing permitted.  Each owner takes his own crop of hay from his holding, and then the meadows are thrown open for communal grazing by livestock owned by ‘commoners’ living in the local area.

VBCW skirmish background

As mentioned above, some of the meadow is owned by the Church, but with the Bishop of Hereford gone, the local royalist authority has begun to cast coveting glances at the land. They are also keen to fall in with Prime Minister Mosley’s theories on the corporate state and the need to modernise British agriculture. Surely, they reason, such an archaic system such as the Lammas Meadow is an anathema to a forward looking 20th century nation?

As such the Bishop’s Lugg Meadow holdings have been confiscated in the name of the government and a brick wall is being built around the various parcels, swallowing up any intervening land (the owners receiving a paltry compensation). This new ‘enclosure’ has enraged the local farming community, and night-time demolition raids have taken place.

Reports of local lads, disguised as scarecrows and obviously influenced by the Twiggy Mommet protest movement, knocking down parts of the hastily built walls are widespread, and so the local constabulary has been tasked with patrolling the area. They are armed, but then again, so are the protestors…

The skirmish

With the main aim being to get to grips with the basic Brink of Battle rule mechanism, this was going to be a small-scale affair, with a standard force of 5 policemen defending the partially built walls against a horde of 10 ‘scarecrows’. The BoB rules allow a maximum of 500 supply points; determined by the number and quality (combat, command and constitution ratings) of troops, their weapons and traits; for small games, but I only ended up spending 200-300.

Force compositions were as follows:-

Herefordshire Constabulary

Inspector Harris
Type: Commander
CBT 4 / CMD 5 / CON 4
Traits: Commander, Hardened
Gear: Revolver. Truncheon (counts as club)

Sergeant Smith
Type: Veteran
CBT 4 / CMD 4 / CON 4
Traits: Burly, Stoic
Gear: Revolver. Truncheon (counts as club)

Constables Muggins, Jones and Clott
Type: Troop
CBT 3 / CMD  / CON 3
Traits: None
Gear: Rifle. Truncheon (counts as club)

Total supply points 242

Scarecrow Protestors

‘King Twiggy’
Type: Commander
CBT 4 / CMD 4 / CON 5
Traits: Commander, Dirty b’stard, Savage aspect
Gear: Rifle. Totem

Type: Veteran
CBT 4 / CMD 3 / CON 5
Traits: Burly, Savage aspect
Gear: Rifle

Scarecrows x 8
Type: Troop
CBT 3 / CMD 2 / CON 5
Traits: Savage aspect
Gear: Improvised weapon

Total supply points 306

The scarecrows had to drive off the police, the police had to defend the area from attack.

Each round sees the distribution of a number of action tokens, based on the commander’s CMD rating. The Police got 5 action tokens and could activate every figure regardless of the ‘edge’ (basically winning the initiative). Scarecrows only had minimum of 4, so had to advance in piecemeal.

Round 1 - Police get the edge, but scarecrows play the ’break’ (losing the initiative gives you this option to break the sequence) and the commander moves and fires first, causing no damage. One of the constables returns fire, but his rifle jams. Three more scarecrows advance on the patrol, which moves to meet the challenge. Firing on both sides is desultory, although one policeman is hit and shocked.

Round 2 - Police get the edge again. Scarecrows activate their 2 riflemen, and two new scarecrows. Once more they play the break and fire first, but to no effect. The Police return fire and also miss. The Scarecrow veteran then fires, hitting and wounding a constable. All policemen within 3” must make a panic test. Two pass but the Inspector, made of less sterner stuff, fails and breaks.

Round 3 – Due to me leafing through the rules, the last 2 rounds have taken the best part of an hour, so time is running short. Therefore I decide to try a rout test (usually caused by a side having 25% casualties) on the Policemen…
They fail!

The policemen flee the scene, leaving the scarecrows at liberty to demolish the walls. Will this force the authorities to rethink their policy, or will we see more skirmishes on the Lugg Flats?


Brink of Battle is a very nice set of rules. While at first glance they look rather complex (in common I think with a lot of skirmish rules) with the plethora of character and weapons traits, the basic mechanism of players rolling d10s against each other and adding the requisite CBT/CMD/CON value is easily picked up.

The use of action tokens, together with the ‘edge’ and ‘break’ factors, forces players to think tactically, while the detailed characteristics of each figure (working on a ‘what you see is what you get’ principle) adds character and variation to the game. However reference sheets and force rosters are essential, especially for new players!

I look forward to playing some more skirmishes, this time with a few more figures on each side, and exploring these rules further!