Friday, 30 September 2011

The Landowners Protection Association - part 1

After finishing my Blackshorts, I thought I'd turn my attention to another idea of mine, the Landowners Protection Association - basically a confederation of rural landowners, toffs, farmers and other modern-day Marcher barons that have emerged during the British Civil War.

Here's a little 'history'...

When the Bishop of Hereford joined the cause of the Anglican League, support from the countryside was muted. While some of the more progressive elements of the Herefordshire set joined his crusade, the vast majority of the people that mattered (wealthy landowners, farmers, the landed gentry and such) remained staunchly conservative traditionalist and, while not necessarily seeing eye-to-eye with Edward’s fascist cronies, baulked at rebelling against the King. Neither did they openly oppose the Bishop, instead preferring to look to their own interests while generally keeping the fighting at arms length.

However the subsequent defeat of the Anglican League in the county bought a new set of challenges for country folk as isolated farms and hamlets, especially along the Welsh border, became targets for the various factions who struggled to fill the power vacuum left by the departing Anglicans. It was only natural that people would band together for protection and soon every farmstead, village and country estate had gathered a group of armed men from the local inhabitants for their defence.

With so many shotgun-toting bands roaming the countryside, clashes between local interests were inevitable. Family feuds, longstanding grudges and petty jealousies turned into low-level fighting, while some of the more unscrupulous landowners tried to forcibly retake land that they had been obliged to sell to pay for death duties after the war. In this atmosphere of survival of the fittest, disparate groups began to coalesce around their more powerful neighbours and soon the Herefordshire countryside was in danger of being carved up by modern-day Marcher barons.

The royalist authorities, grudgingly admitting that their influence did not extend very far from the city of Hereford and surrounding towns, tacitly encouraged co-operation between the most significant landowners, who, themselves recognising that something had to be done, formed the Landowners Protection Association – an umbrella group which nominally controlled all the local bands, co-ordinated any actions and acted as intermediary when serious disputes erupted between members.

At a meeting at the Green Dragon hotel in Hereford, the county’s notables elected Sir Barrington Patchpole QC as chairman and military leader of the LPA. Noted for his organisational skills and impartiality when presiding over the Hereford Assizes, Patchpole was also a WW1 veteran with sizeable holdings and family ties to the county that went back to before the Norman Conquest. He quickly set about organising a ‘standing army’, in which each major landowner would contribute a ‘company’ of men – drawn mainly from their own tenants, gamekeepers, labourers, house staff and local villagers.

Added to these companies, Patchpole also incorporated some less conventional units, including mounted aristocrats from among the local hunts, horse breakers from the hills of the border region and sharpshooters drawn from the many hunters, stalkers (and poachers) in the region. While mainly armed with the ubiquitous shotgun and lacking any heavy weaponry, the LPA could rely upon the support of the local population and a knowledge of the countryside that was second to none.

Using this force to keep the peace in the countryside, bring to heel any overly-ambitious landowner and protect the borders of the county from incursion and banditry, the LPA freed up official government forces to handle the ‘proper’ fighting – occasionally stepping in to provide auxiliary support when things got a little too hot for the fascists (for as long as the LPA deemed it politically advantageous that is…)

The photos are of the first painted LPA unit, the Foley Manor Fencibles - more to come!

Monday, 26 September 2011


With the outskirts of Ledbury taken, the Blackshorts dug in and waited while the fascists of the Three Counties Legion gathered their forces for the final assault of the town. The MHC, local LDV and the Anglican League decided to counterattack the fascists and drive them out before they could organise themselves.

The table layout

The Blackshorts held defensive positions in the centre of the table (left to right: the Metropolitan company holding a bridge, the HMG, Boys team and ‘Evelyn’ covering the centre road, the Marches company held a stone wall to their right. Behind them in reserve was the Monmouthshire English company.

Blackshort defences

Facing them, the enemy appeared along the entire length of the table, concentrating on the fascists right flank, and not the centre road as they had anticipated. They advanced, threatening to outflank and envelop the Blackshorts.

The MHC prepares to batter the Blackshorts' right flank

Luckily the BUF Three Counties Legion, led by the interim governor William de Braose, arrived at the rear of the Blackshorts, their armour on the right flank to meet that of the enemy. As per previous games, these mechanical monsters traded shot for shot for the rest of the game without really giving or taking much damage.

Reinforcements arrive to support the Fascist right flank

To add further confusion, two groups of Twiggy Mommet scarecrow protestors arrived – allied to the LDV in an effort to atone for their previous treachery and furious at the fascists for duping them. One company turned up at the right flank to support the Anglican League’s Archenfield Amateur Athletics Association, while the other company appeared at the rear of the Three Counties Legion!

Scarecrows at the rear!

On the left flank, a company of militia, the ‘Croydon Crusher’ and two bombers advanced against the bridge. The Blackshorts took casualties, but, supported by the HMG and ineffective mortar fire, eventually drove them back, knocking out the Crusher and gunning down the bombers.

Bloodshed by the bridge

In the centre, a company of militia, supported by an armoured car, Boys team and an HMG, advanced against the Marches company. Both sides took casualties but the proximity of the Blackshorts’ HMG and more ineffective mortar fire saw the attack falter with very heavy casualties (the sole survivor, the standard bearer, bravely withstanding fire whilst pricking Giles’ finger and drawing blood!)

Attack on the centre

Eventually the fighting in the centre had reduced to that of the MHC’s armoured car vs. the Blackshorts’ ‘Evelyn’ and Boys rifle. Both sides blasted at each other across the wall at point blank range, without causing so much as a scratch! Meanwhile to the rear, the BUF reserve quickly turned to face the Scarecrows, who, failing a resolve test to charge, withdrew in the face of superior firepower.

Point-blank range!

The balance of the battle really hinged on events at the right flank, where the AAAA, supported by heavy fire from an LDV-occupied hill and the scarecrows, shot up the Monmouthshire English, who had rapidly redeployed to meet the threat.

Fighting on the right

Unfortunately for the Anglican League, the arrival of the Three Counties Legion meant that they in turn were outflanked – HMG fire quickly taking out their command group. Outgunned and demoralised, the survivors of the AAAA ran for it, joining the routing mob of scarecrows, which had been shot to pieces in their advance against the BUF reinforcements.


With the defenders of the fascist left flank and centre free to support the right flank, the Anglican League and allies threw in the towel rather than continue outnumbered. The final assault of Ledbury was definitely on the cards and a great time was had by all!

The end of play

More photos here.

WARNING: Readers of a squeamish disposition, look away now!

The Road to Ledbury

Recently I was unexpectedly given leave by my good lady to go and play toy soldiers. Luckily Giles was free and so we decided to give the Brigadier 38 rules another bashing, including this time the initiative and command points system, where each commander rolls a D6 to see how many orders they can issue per round.

The scenario (quickly knocked up by Giles) of this battalion level game was thus:-

After opening up a route into Ledbury in the battle of Happy Land, the BUF decided to force another passage into the town’s outskirts. King Offa’s Legion was therefore tasked with breaking the local defences.
The layout (Blackshorts at the bottom, LDV at the top)

Advancing diagonally along the board, the Blackshorts had to defeat the MHC / LDV force at the opposite end.

The Blackshorts' starting positions

The fascists quickly advanced up the road and were on top of the LDV before they could react (thanks to some good dice rolls on my part and some not-so-good rolls on Giles’ when it came to the command points).

Quick advance to the centre

The layout of the terrain meant that both sides found themselves funnelled into the centre of the table. An attempt by the LDV to outflank the Blackshorts by a rapid march to a hill on the fascist right was quickly dealt with by the Metropolitan Blackshorts, who, wading through a swamp, opened fire on the exposed militia, driving them back.

LDV flank attack as firing hots up in the centre

The rest of the Blackshorts took up positions on and around the hill dominating the centre, enabling them to pour a withering fire on the defenders, who returned fire as best they could while sheltering alongside a building. Both side’s armour – in this case the newly arrived ‘Evelyn’ improvised armoured cars, duked it out with no discernable effect, but in the end the defenders of this route into Ledbury were whittled down by the luckier Blackshorts.

Flank attack driven off and heavy casualties for the LDV

Eventually the militiamen conceded defeat and a second road into Ledbury was open to the fascists.

The game lasted a mere 3 rounds, mainly due to the large disparity in command points. This proved that Brig 38 rules are really for larger amounts of figures than what we had on the table. And thus, with plenty of time left we scraped together as many miniatures as we could find and with the time remaining to us, put on a brigade level game – the LDV counterattack!

More photos can be found here.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Very British VIP

A couple of VIPs for your viewing pleasure.

First off, His Royal Highness King Edward VIII...

Secondly, the interim governor of Herefordshire and modern-day Marcher lord, William de Braose...

Adn finally a little background on this chap...

Ever since the expulsion of the Anglican League from most of Herefordshire by forces royal to Edward VIII, the authorities struggled to maintain order, especially along the vulnerable Welsh border region. Welsh nationalists raided repeatedly into the county and even maintained a garrison in the town of Kington, whilst rendering assistance to the Anglican League enclave in Ross-on-Wye.

Apart from maintaining order in Hereford city itself, the civil authorities failed to make its mark elsewhere in the county, depending on the fascist Three Counties and King Offa Legions to police the countryside. In absence of any central control, prominent local landowners began building their own private armies, unwittingly (or otherwise) presenting themselves as alternative seats of power, reminiscent of the days of the medieval Marcher Lords, despite professing loyalty to the King.

Step forward one William de Braose.

William Brewes, or 'Bill' as he was more widely know, was born in 1885 in Bramber, Sussex, into a family which claimed roots back to the ancient de Braose dynasty - a prominent family of Anglo-Norman nobles originating in Briouze, near Argentan, Orne. Members of this family played a significant part in the Norman Conquest of England and subsequent power struggles in England, Wales and Ireland in the 11th to 14th centuries and once held considerable lands, not only in Sussex, but also along the Marches region.

Little is known about Brewes’ early life, except that he developed an interest in horse racing. At some stage he must have got into a bad crowd, as his name cropped up in a number of race-fixing allegations. Certainly he became a very rich man through race winnings and, after some alleged dodgy dealings, came close to being arrested at the outbreak of the Great War.

A keen horseman, he joined the Indian Army. Records are suspiciously patchy, but he entered the war as Trooper Bill Brewes, and came out as Lieutenant William de Braose. As an officer Skinner's Horse he shared a mutual interest in horses with 'Fruity' Metcalf (future equerry to Edward VIII), with whom he became close friends.

After, in his own words, a ‘distinguished’ military career, Brewes’ fortunes increased (mainly thanks to a silent partnership in a firm contracted to supply fodder to horses during the war). Gravitating into the social circle of the Prince of Wales, William de Braose appeared on the membership roster for the January Club and thence the British Union. Soon he could be seen swaggering through his estates in BUF uniform, his hair and moustache waxed into what was to become known as the fashionable 'Cirencester look'.

His fascist credentials established, de Braose held a number of minor official posts within the BUF and began to petition for a high-ranking position as soon as civil war erupted in 1938. Rumoured to have lent a substantial amount of money to the King, William was awarded the title of 3rd Baron Braose - a nod to his ancestors - and was given the official role of Interim Governor of the Marches - the word 'interim' no doubt a caution to this ambitious man that failure would not be tolerated.

And so William 'Bill' de Braose took up his position as governor of Herefordshire (practically the only portion of the Marches under nominal Edwardian control). If he succeeded in cementing Edward's rule, his position would be assured, for the king had already pointed out that de Braose's ancestors also included the de Bohun family - former Lord Wardens of the Marches and Earls of Hereford. If he failed then... well, it did not do to disappoint the king...

Monday, 5 September 2011

The battle of Happy Land

Giles and I had a great game last week, in which my Blackshorts took on his militia outside Happy Land – a Victorian suburb of Ledbury. The background was thus:-

While the BUF had stalled the Anglican Leagues advance on Ledbury at the battle of Much Marcle, the brutal beating meted out by the BUF on the Malvern Hills Conservators (and memories of the infamous Olympia Rally brawl) turned many observers against the fascists.

With the Three Counties Legion BUF now strung out between holding their positions at Much Marcle and pursuing the fleeing MHC, the way was open for local anti-government militias in the Ledbury area to take up arms. Soon a well-armed LDV force was gathered outside the town at Happy Land.

Happy Land

Tasked with dislodging this group were the Blackshorts of King Offa’s Legion:- two Blackshort infantry companies, a command group, a Boys anti-tank rifle team and a Vickers HMG team. They also had the assistance of a BUF tank and a mortar team, and the Monmouthshire English Trained Band: a company of veteran ex-servicemen employed by landowners and businessmen who had lost out during the Welsh nationalist takeover of that county.

Opposing them, the LDV had three companies of militia infantry, a command group, a Boys anti-tank rifle team, a Vickers HMG team, a pair of anti-tank bombers, an armoured car and a ‘Croydon Crusher’ – a 1930’s quad bike armed with an HMG.

Rumour had it that a sizable number of Twiggy Mommet scarecrow protesters were also in the area (it was agreed that we would roll a D6 at the end of every turn. A 1 would cause some protestors to appear at the edge of the table. We would then roll again to see what edge they appeared on and whose side they joined.)

The LDV starting positions

We tried out the new Brigadier 38 big game rules, but used playing cards to decide initiative, as the command points system of Brig. 38 did not suit our smaller game.

The Blackshorts starting positions

As the LDV took up positions among the buildings (Widow Arnet’s cottage), woods and hills at one end of the table; the fascists, with the exception of the mortar, advanced across the river at the other end. As they advanced their centre came under heavy fire from the LDVs three HMGs. The Blackshorts returned fire but were forced to deploy their political officer, ‘Trouncer’ Trudd, who through a mixture of Spodeian rhetoric and his threatening cricket bat, managed to rally the green Metropolitan Blackshorts as they wavered under fire.
The Monmouthshire English advance along the right flank

The LDV get ready to meet the assault

The Blackshort signaller was able to help the mortar crew zero in on the LDVs command group, but the shot fell short. Luckily the LDV militia covering their left flank was hit instead, causing many casualties – the only decent result the mortar had during the game!

The Metropolitan Blackshorts recieve heavy fire

The LDV firing line

It was then that the first unit of Twiggy Mommet scarecrows arrived, slap bang next to the recently mortared LDV unit. Worse was to come, for they immediately declared for the fascists (possibly due to an over-consumption of cider) and charged the decimated LDV, who made a hasty retreat, taking the two bombers, who had been waiting to spring out and ambush the BUF tank, with them. This allowed the Monmouthshire English and reformed Metropolitan Blackshorts to advance unmolested along the right flank.

Twiggy Mommet protestors appear...

...and get stuck in

Meanwhile in the centre, the tank, HMG and Boys team came within range and began to take casualties, with ‘Trouncer’ Trudd having to steady the HMG team before succumbing to a bullet himself. However at last the Blackshorts were able to return some heavy fire, eventually destroying the LDV ‘Croydon Crusher’, immobilising the armoured car and suppressing the HMG and Boys teams.

The Marches Blackshorts advance

Pressure begins to mount on the LDV

To the Fascist left, the Marches Blackshorts fared rather worse. After ascending a hill opposite another hill held by the LDV right flank, they came under effective fire from the enemy. After managing to return fire a little, these locally raised fascists turned and fled.

An ignominious retreat for the Marches Blackshorts

The second lot of protestors

By now the second unit of scarecrows had appeared; once again on the LDV left and once again declaring for the fascists. Emboldened by their comrades’ success, they immediately headed for the LDV centre-rear and charged the nearest militia company. Stumbling through Widow Arnet’s back garden, these protestors were cut down by the waiting LDV, the few survivors fleeing back through the corpse-strewn garden.

The second scarecrow charge

and it's gruesome outcome

Eventually The Blackshorts reached the LDVs left flank and began to bring their firepower to bear. The Monmouthshire English, supported by the Metropolitan Blackshorts, advanced across the bloody garden so recently vacated by the scarecrows, while the Blackshort sniper ensconced himself in the widow’s cottage and began to take pot shots at the LDV right flank. Meanwhile the LDV militia holding the hill – really the only effective unit they had left – were being kept busy by the first unit of scarecrows, who had crossed the battlefield and, after shooting the few firearms they had, prepared for another charge.

The fascist advance along the right flank

The scarecrows charge the other flank

The LDV was now outnumbered and outflanked and, while it was possible for them to hang on a little longer, defeat was largely inevitable. The Blackshorts had dislodged their enemies from Happy Lands, thanks to their courage under fire, the sturdy British knee and not a little luck!

The fascist advance reaches it's target

LDV surrender

As usual Giles was a great host, and a fantastic game was had. We both gained a good appreciation of the Brigadier 38 rules, although some questions were also raised. It was also nice to get some decent (and sometimes downright jammy) dice rolls for a change!