Tuesday, 19 February 2013

It's The Bishop!

Making a rather ignominious appearance at the 2nd Battle of Ledbury was the Bishop of Hereford, who declared Herefordshire for the Anglican League at the outbreak of the civil war. After initially holding back Royalist incursions into the county, he inadvisably attempted to set up a pretender to the throne, claiming him to be the supposedly deceased Prince John, earning himself the ire of the King.

The Bishop’s forces were eventually defeated in the Severn Valley campaign (one of the first Big Games at Evesham), and he was captured and taken into custody while Herefordshire fell largely under Royalist control.

Clad in a modest black robe, the Bishop proved a quiet and contemplative prisoner, leading a simple confinement of prayer and study, earning himself a transfer from the Tower of London to a more comfortable exile at Madresfield House, Malvern.

It was here that pressure was put on him to return to Hereford as a reformed man, where he was to gain his freedom by arranging for the treasured Mappa Mundi and Chained Library to be transferred into the ‘protection’ of the King’s private collection.

However the government car he was travelling in mysteriously crashed en-route, smack in the middle of what was soon to become the Second Battle of Ledbury. Uninjured, the Bishop fled the scene and his captors, hiding in the privy of a nearby farm until he could make his way to the Anglican lines. Unfortunately the farm was occupied as headquarters of the besieging Royalists, and his presence was eventually discovered.

Assumed to have been recaptured, his current whereabouts and status are unknown…

(The figure is a Perry Miniatures Carlist War priest, with Westwind head and TAG helmet.)

Dr. Lisle Carr, the real Bishop of Hereford 1931-1941

Charles Lisle Carr (1871 – 1942) was an Anglican clergyman who served as the second bishop of the restored see of Coventry before becoming the 107th Bishop of Hereford in 1931.

He was born in Alnwick, Northumberland and was educated at Liverpool College, and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, to which he was elected a Fellow in 1934. After university he took Holy Orders at Ridley Hall, Cambridge and embarked on a varied clerical career that took him to many urban locations.

Carr was curate of Aston juxta Birmingham, 1894–97; Redditch, 1897; Tutor of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, 1897–1902; Vicar of St Sepulchre, Cambridge, 1901–02; Vicar of Blundell sands, Liverpool, 1902–06; Rector of Woolton, Liverpool, 1906–12; Vicar of Yarmouth 1912–20; Archdeacon of Norfolk, 1916–18; Archdeacon of Norwich, 1918–20; Vicar of Sheffield, 1920–22; Honorary Canon of Sheffield Cathedral, 1920; Archdeacon of Sheffield, 1920–22; Bishop of Coventry, 1922–31; Bishop of Hereford, 1931–41.

In 1905, Carr became part of 'The Group Brotherhood', originally a trio of young like-minded evangelicals who had become alarmed by the tensions between and alienation of different camps in the anti-ritualist, anti-high church evangelical movement at the time. Campaigning for a more positive, thoughtful and relevant attitude among evangelicals through a series of informal gatherings with sympathetic friends. Annual conferences were also held, and, after 18 years, the group had become structuralised with an elected committee.

During his tenure as Bishop of Hereford, Carr participated in an initiative from the Bishop of Chelmsford, who launched a grand appeal in the 1930s to help fund the building of new churches in the populous section of his diocese adjacent to London’s east end. The Bishop’s fund reached £300,000, £6,000 of which was raised by the diocese of Hereford towards the costs of £11,000 for the building of a new church at St George's, East Ham, replacing the temporary structure.

In honour of the funds raised in Hereford, the church was renamed 'St George and St Ethelbert', and Carr laid the foundation of the new church on 9 May 1936. Handing over the first instalment to the bishop of Chelmsford – a cheque for £3,000, Bishop Lisle Carr remarked, amid laughter: "I may say that this is the largest cheque I have written in my life".

Carr continued with words that, in the make-believe universe of VBCW, may prove to be rather apt: "I venture to ask all the people who will enjoy this church that now and again they will remember their friends in Hereford and pray for those in that diocese, where, in the loneliness of country parishes, isolated among our hills, where communications are bad and difficult, the beacon of God is still strong among us. Pray that He may give us spiritual life, as we shall continue to work and pray for you."

Carr retired in 1941, dying later that year.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The 2nd Battle of Ledbury - the Herefordshire Big Game 2013

…and so it came to pass that the forces of the King and his Fascist supporters once again converged on Ledbury, hoping to wrest the market town from the control of the rebel Anglican League and their Socialist comrades. Yes, it was time for the Herefordshire Big Game 2013!

Table 1 from the rebel defences
 This year, Giles and I put on our Big Game as part of a larger VBCW national grand tour – a series of semi-linked events held across the country, throughout the year. We decided to split the action over two tables, each representing the approaches to Ledbury, with table 1 consisting mainly of Herefordshire countryside, liberally littered with hedges, fences, farms and a river.

Table 2 from Ledbury
The countryside on table 2 was a little more open, but also had a portion of the town itself. After some last minute adjustments, the ratio between government and anti-government platoons on table 1 was 3:2 while on table 2 it was 2:1, so while the rebels enjoyed the advantage of holding defensive positions, the government troops had bigger numbers.

On table 1, ‘Captain Bigglesmay’ fielded a platoon of royalists, joined by newcomers Richard and Roo, who had a platoon of BUF (with a monster of a tank) and South African royalists (recently arrived to fight for their King) respectively. Facing them was another newcomer Jim, with a platoon of Anglican League (including my steam lorry) and Rob with his West Midland Socialists.

Combined BUF/Blackshort/TA platoon
Due to one player dropping out, I served as his replacement on table 2, and therefore most of the action described in this blog entry will come from that front. Having lent some of my models to other players, I decided to field a mixed BUF/Blackshort/Territorial platoon, led overall by a BUF command group. For support I used my TA mortar team, with an improvised armoured car, my recently finished halftrack and a sniper.

Joining my force was Tym, with a wholly BUF platoon (including his female BUF section), transported in trucks and with a mortar and artillery piece in support. Facing us was VBCW co-creator Mort, with his Somerset Freedom Fighters masquerading as local Anglican Leaguers, with a mortar and two Rolls Royce armoured cars.

The mystery car
The players had already been given clues as to what to expect, in the form of newspaper clippings, and after mustering for inspection, were briefed further:-

Royalist Briefing 
The time has come for the forces of the King to go on the offensive once again.
The rebel-held town of Ledbury is blocking the railway links between loyal Hereford and the neighbouring counties, and in the wider scope of things, forcing supply routes between the King’s armies in the Midlands and northwest and the loyal ports at Gloucester, Bristol and points south to divert into central England.
It is imperative that Ledbury is secured for The Crown – if only to show those fascist bully boys that dare to call themselves the King’s men who’s boss!

URGENT INTELLIGENCE: A government car carrying a political prisoner and escort has been reported missing.
The vehicle was last seen driving at speed near your area. It is vital that you secure both the vehicle and its occupants.
Apprehend the prisoner and bring him/her to a secure location behind your lines.
 Anglican League Briefing 
The Anglican League’s attempt to cut off Herefordshire from the rest of the country by driving north from Ross and linking up with anti-government elements in the Midlands has failed, and we are now on the back foot.
Ledbury must be held at all costs; else any hope of creating a broader alliance will be lost, forcing us to rely on precarious links with nationalist Wales for supplies and support.
Victory today will see a rejuvenated Anglican League in Herefordshire.
Failure could mean the first step in a brutal fascist campaign to eradicate all opposition in the county – God willing we can prevent this!

Sympathetic sources within the local authority report that a government car has gone missing nearby. It seems that the royalists and co. are in quite a flap over it and are desperate to locate the vehicle.
It might be worth getting to it first. Whatever or whoever it was carrying appears to be rather important – let’s find it and bring it back to our lines shall we?
 Socialist Briefing 
The Anglican League’s attempt to cut off Herefordshire from the rest of the country by driving north from Ross and linking up with our liberation forces in the Midlands has failed, and they are now on the back foot.
Thus the People’s Army has come to defend Ledbury from the Fascist counterattack. The town must be held at all costs; else any hope of spreading the revolution to the oppressed rural workers of Herefordshire will be lost.
The will of the proletariat is with us – we will prevail and the Red Flag will spread westwards!

Spies in the enemy camp report that a government car has gone missing nearby and that the fascist scum will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
It is believed that this vehicle of capitalism contains some sort of precious cargo as Mosley’s cronies have ordered an all-out search for the car.
The forces of socialism must find this tool of oppression, liberate its contents and bring them to the proletariat behind our lines!
Fascist Briefing
The time has come for the forces of Prime Minister Mosley to go on the offensive once again.
The rebel-held town of Ledbury is blocking the railway links between our local garrisons and the neighbouring counties, and in the wider scope of things, forcing supply routes between the our legions in the Midlands and northwest and government ports at Gloucester, Bristol and points south to divert into central England.
It is imperative that Ledbury is secured for the corporate state – if only to show the regular royalist forces how to do the job properly!

URGENT INTELLIGENCE: A government car carrying a political prisoner and escort has been reported missing.
The vehicle was last seen driving at speed near your area. It is vital that you secure both the vehicle and its occupants.
Apprehend the prisoner and bring him/her to a secure location behind your lines.
This mysterious government car was placed in the middle of table 1, a little further up from a field in which stood a scarecrow, dressed up in a mock BUF uniform. As for the occupant of the vehicle, well he had legged it as soon as the car had crashed and was hiding somewhere on one of the tables.

The defenders were allowed to set up first, followed by the attackers. Once all the models were on the table, the first initiative cards were drawn and dice rolled – the battle was on!

The battle on table 2

Our forces deploy
My first objective was the large wood and the half-timbered house beyond, dominating the middle of the table, towards which I advanced with my territorial infantry loaded into the halftrack. Tym’s truck-borne BUF advanced along our right.

Entering the wood
My forces entered the wood and slowly probed forward (very slowly in the case of the cyclists – obviously not mountain bikes!), wary of a possible Anglican presence in the house. However first blood was drawn by an Anglican armoured car lurking a distance behind the house, which fired at my Blackshorts.

This was soon joined by fire from the house. My infantry, armoured car and halftrack duly replied, with supporting fire from my mortar (aided by a spotter team and a sniper which had raced to occupy the hill on my left). Tym’s mortar and artillery also let rip and, with my command team steadying the nerves, the house occupants were eventually killed off.

Meanwhile Tym’s BUF continued to advance along the flank, with his female unit racing forward towards the unoccupied defence works on our extreme right. My forces moved through and around the house towards the church – our next objective and, as I soon discovered, full of enemy infantry.

Onwards to the church
Curiously, Mort’s Anglicans were now approached by two big game hunters, on the lookout for an escaped lion (which was in fact causing havoc on table 1!) from the exiled Emperor of Abyssinia’s private menagerie in Malvern. This pair duly set off towards Tym’s BUF, exchanged a couple of shots when they were told to turn back, and then promptly scarpered. The BUF were by now also engaged with the Anglicans holed up in the next half-timbered building.

Anglican defences
These forward positions were doing a good job of holding up our advance, but had denuded the Anglicans of troops to defend the town itself – a job which was left to their mortar team, spotters, anti-tank pair (largely redundant due to the lack of BUF tanks) and command squad. Mort was forced to form elements of these into a scratch unit to deal with the BUF ladies on his left flank, where one of his armoured cars had been rammed by a BUF truck and was out of action.

On table 1, the royalist advance continued to grind on in the face of fierce opposition. It was the socialists who reached the crashed government car, and received this information:- 
You have found the government car, which, judging by the skid marks looks to have been going too fast, hit a slippery patch and careered off the road.

The driver is dead and a BUF officer is badly injured but alive. In his delirious state he says:
“He’s gone - the blighter has run off with my sword… You must find him – the Bishop of Hereford must not be allowed to escape!”

Oh crickey – wasn’t the Bishop of Hereford the figurehead of all anti-government resistance in the county before his capture last year?
Soon word spread that the Bishop was at large, adding an extra dimension to the game.

Armoured car nuisance
My platoon was now taking heavy fire from the church and from the remaining Anglican armoured car, which continued to rake the Blackshorts. I had decided to largely ignore this threat as my Blackshorts possessed nothing heavier than an LMG, which would only be able to force morale tests on the armoured car and not damage it. I didn’t want this lone vehicle to hold up my advance towards the sparsely occupied trenches of Ledbury. Therefore the car reversed in pace with the Blackshorts, who along with the rest of my force were concentrating fire on the church, and for their pains lost the platoon medic to the vehicle’s LMG fire. Shot in the back whilst saving the life of a wounded Blackshort – a hero’s death!

Blasting the church
As my platoon whittled down the church defenders to less than half their number (no thanks to my mortar, which nearly blasted my own troops), the cyclists finally got their arses into gear and, along with the halftrack and mortar, began to move along my left flank towards the town, hoping to rush the largely empty defences before the Anglican mortar could do its work.

The right flank
On the right flank, Tym’s infantry, supported by mortar and artillery fire, were also making holes in the Anglican ranks, stubbornly defending of the building in front of them.

Fighting on the outskirts
It was only a matter of time before out superior numbers would decimate the Anglicans, and so Mort announced that he was making a tactical withdrawal with whatever he was able to salvage to join his fellow rebels on table 1. It was decided that the remainder of his platoon would tie up the attackers for a number of turns, selling their lives dearly and almost halving our combined force.

"I'm just popping to the toi- Hello, who's this?"
Bad news for the Anglicans on table 1 then, for while they were receiving reinforcements from Mort, these would soon be followed by Tym and I, who had taken our objective. Even worse for the rebels was the news that the Bishop of Hereford had finally been located – hiding in an outside privy at the Royalist HQ!

"It's the Bishop!"
The battle on table 1 is best left described by those whom fought and umpired it. Giles’ account is here, here and here, BUF Rich has a description here (scroll down), socialist Rob has blogged it here, while Tym's photos are here. More details are also on the Very British Civil Forum here.

Arrival on table 1
By the time Tym and I arrived on the scene, the royalists had engaged with the enemy along the length of the Anglican defence works. A random event card had forced the Anglicans out of their trenches (duly occupied by Mort) to make a counter-attack, resulting in an almighty scrum between the socialists and BUF/South Africans on the royalist left and some tank-on-cavalry action on the right. Even an Anglican padre got stuck in!

Slightly to the royalist rear, a unit of BUF infantry had been held up by a group of Twiggy Mommet protestors, enraged by the destruction of the scarecrow by Rich’s passing BUF cavalry (causing winces from those players who knew something of Herefordshire’s association with scarecrows in the VBCW universe and the consequences of damaging them).

Anglicans counter-attack
 Another random event card caused a breakdown in communications and here my dice rolls failed me (having behaved themselves surprisingly well all day). My remaining force, sitting threateningly on the socialist flank, ground to a halt and refused to move, in the process blocking the route of Tym’s advance – a somewhat ignominious end to what was a successful day.

"Get off my land!"
With Royalist and BUF troops bearing down on the rebels and with half the town already liberated for the King, the Anglican/Socialist position was untenable and the towel was thrown in. The Anglican League will have to retreat back to Ross-on-Wye, while the government now have an uninterrupted rail link between Shropshire and Gloucestershire.

It had been a great day, and a most enjoyable game with lions, scarecrows, bishops and big game hunters thrown into the mix! More photos can be found here.

Here's to the next one…!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

M3 Half Track, VBCW style

During my habitual browses from the For Sale section of the Lead Adventure Forum, I came across someone selling a Warlord Games M3 half track. Now I’ve been looking to increase my collection of armoured vehicles, and also something in which my various VBCW troops could be transported in, so why not kill two birds with one stone?

I’ve given her the VBCW treatment by ‘Britishifying’ her – to wit swapping over the driver’s side and the gun mounting and then removing the .50 cal. M2 Browning machine gun for a trusty Lewis Gun and neglecting to add the M1919 Browning machine guns to the sides and rear.

A dap of paint and a little muddying up later, and here she is!
Note that this is the first time I’ve employed a matt varnish via aerosol, and have been a little heavy handed (spraying too close and too thickly I think), hence the odd white-ish patches, which I’ll touch up at a later date.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

On Yer Bike!

At certain points in its history, the Herefordshire Regiment has had a cyclist section, so I thought it’d be fun to do a unit for my VBCW version, so I ordered the Home Guard cyclist pack from Wargames Foundry and, to add some variation, some British Tommies on cycles from Warlord Games.

Sadly, ‘fun’ soon turned into ‘frustrating’…
For a start, the Warlord minis proved to be an absolute bugger to put together for a cack-handed modeller like me and by the time I had finished the bikes were somewhat twisted and bent. Secondly they were disappointingly smaller than the Foundry ones (which went together like a charm, although I still managed to bend some of them).

I persevered, adding more variation with a headswap and swapping one rifle for a BAR, but  you know the feeling when a project goes awry and you lose all enthusiasm for it? That was me…
I half painted one of them to test the effectiveness of Coat d’Arms Super Shader as a replacement for Army Painter Quickshade, which I was getting fed up with (I loved the results, but not the brush cleaning with white spirits, the resultant smell and the eventual solidification of said brush). I was not happy with the result.

And so they languished in my tool/painting/bits box, undercoated but unloved while I cracked on with vehicles, hill fighters, scarecrows and the like. Eventually however, with my unpainted lead pile starting to mount up, I forced myself to finish them off (this time using Vallejo Umber shade, which I am happier with despite the lack of varnish protection the other two products give) – and here they are, wobbling precariously into battle on wonky requisitioned bicycles of various sizes!