Friday, June 10, 2016

Attack on the Lark

The Anglican League is on the offensive. Lieutenant Southgate knows he and his men have to seize the B1106 bridge over the River Lark and take the BUF HQ beyond. The captures would open Bury St. Edmunds to the unstoppable advance of the Anglican League and the banishment of the hated BUF from the area. The weather has been damp, the going underfoot is somewhat soft. Movement off-road is reduced.

Southgate attaches himself to the First Section, upgraded to regulars in the last action and the best chance he has of carrying-through the assault. His plan is to take the outlying house south of the B1106, from where he'll be in a position to direct fire upon the nearest BUF trench, hopefully displacing its occupants and allowing an attack on the bridge.

The League begins to form up. On the B1106 the Vickers Mk VIb noses tentatively toward the enemy.
The League took time forming up. Southgate grew impatient but held himself in check. Too much depended on the attack to allow things to go off half-cock.

At least the 3-inch mortar team was on the ball. Guided by the OP they dropped smoke in front of the house and wooden garage that formed Southgate's first objective.

The League begins to walk.
The smoke poured forth, masking the house. BUF troops had been seen running toward it earlier but not in any strength. Now they would be unable to interfere with the advance. Over to Southgate's right and much to his irritation the MK VIb still moved with caution. He hoped the tank's young commander would pull his finger out and provide the support the League needed.

In any case Southgate had enough to worry about. In spite of the heavy going underfoot the men moved with commendable speed over the claggy soil of the neglected field. Before long they plunged through the smokescreen and into a maelstrom of fire.

Men fell to left and right but the determination of the section carried them onwards. They stormed the house, forcing open doors and smashing their way in through windows. A brutal hand-to-hand struggle with the BUF men broke out.

Over on the B1106 another section moved up across the culvert to cluster behind the slow-moving tank whilst a sister section kept pace across the field.

The fight became too much for the BUF section occupying the house. Faced by superior troops they fled, along with the specialist carrying the shiny new Boyes AT rifle, who'd hoped to set up a nice flanking shot on any League armour that dared move up the road.

Southgate and the mortar OP team set up shop on the top floor of the house whilst the rest of the section spread out through the building. Before long rifle fire and mortar bombs began to fall upon the nearest of the BUF trenches. The survivors from the fierce hand-to-hand combat in the house cowered in the riverside trees behind the trench line and regained their composure. Before long the bombardment grew too much for their comrades occupying the trench. As one they ran over the bridge and off down the B1106.

Run away! Run away!

It was not all plain sailing for the League. A veteran of the Great War, the Boyes rifleman had found better shelter. As the mortar fire was redirected onto the bunker he saw an excellent opportunity. The MK VIb had ventured a matter of a few yards up the road, and directly into his sights...

Clang! Crack! Bang!
Fat .55 calibre rounds began to smack into the front armour of the MKVIb. The new weapon proved its worth. A chip of spalled metal killed the gunner and threw the already-nervous commander into blind panic. Behind the tank the infantry could only slog forward, hoping to gain a firing position to give the tank much needed support. Would they be in time?

The mortar observer, seeing the MKVIb in peril, ordered smoke rounds to be dropped in front of it. The smoke provided valuable cover, but proved intermittent. The Boyes rifleman continued a gleeful persecution of the hapless tank in those moments when the smoke lifted, although he couldn't manage a killing shot. The lack of mortar fire falling upon them allowed the BUF section to stand their ground, to the detriment of the advancing League.

The Boyes rifleman's chances of destroying the tank fell by the minute as the League began a general advance. The section moving up the road passed the MKVIb sitting silent and useless in the middle of the highway. It hadn't fired a single round in the entire action. Bright splashes of metal on the hull front showed how accurate the Boyes fire had been. The section commander wondered why the crew didn't attempt to move. One of his men would later swear to hearing the sound of hysterical weeping coming from inside the vehicle as he marched by. Doubt was cast upon his statement but the subject was never raised again.

The battered BUF section occupying the southern trench did what they could through the heavy fire from Lewis guns and rifles blanketing them. They inflicted enough casualties on the nearest League section to force it to ground.

The damage was done, however. As men fell the BUF section morale shattered and they set off after their comrades, haring over the bridge and past the BUF HQ in the Priory Hotel. Seeing what was happening the HQ staff began to pack up and burn papers. The Boyes rifleman had become obsessed with killing the MKVIb. He dodged the shrapnel and bullets to find safety and a new firing position in the bunker.

But it was not to be. Mortar smoked blanketed the bunker, screening the advancing troops until the order came to switch over to HE. Explosive rounds began to fall upon the bunker roof, where the BUF Platoon HQ section held on grimly. The third section in the trench to the north had done nothing to justify their worth. Now BUF Platoon Leader Huggins ordered them to head for safety, hoping to salvage some lives from the wreckage.

The end came soon after. The roof of the bunker collapsed, burying and killing most of the occupants, including the persistent Boyes rifleman. Huggins would later be found wounded and taken prisoner. Before then, a triumphant Lieutenant Southgate led his men past the shattered structure and over the bridge. Bury St. Edmunds had fallen.
Onward, Christian Soldiers!

And so the VBCW mini-campaign centred about Bury St. Edmunds comes to an end. Some thoughts on the Chain of Command rules and the way the campaign played out will follow. For now we'll leave the newly-promoted Captain Southgate and his men at the thanksgiving service in the yet-incomplete St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and turn elsewhere, perhaps to a time fifty years before and a world away in Darkest Africa...


Captain Darling said...

Good game! Nice setup.
I look forward to seeing your thoughts on CoC...

Peter Ball said...

It's been a delight following this campaign!

A J said...

Thanks, gentlemen! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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