The characters for this session
Cpl Bryn Williams, L1 Leader
LCpl Pinko McLean, L1 Combat
Ptes Harding and Cade, L1 Recon
Day one – Daphne takes us and the files for a lovely drive
This morning is grand the way it smells. Early dawn, the jungle mixing with cooking spices. Naught to fret over pet, here we are in Prome all safe and sound. Funny you would think the brass would send standing orders for how the word should be pronounced but I heard a BSM growling ‘Hand welcome to Prom sah’ as he handed off some civvie wallah, and our Williams, the Corp, says it with two syllables Pro-om like rhyming with poem.
In my last (included in this same) we had just tidied up some Burmese. Then, Corp and young Cade head into the police station. Fishburn, Daphne’s driver (the Bedford!) hands me two more box magazines for the Bren. Resourceful he is. I say well done to Harding on keeping to short burst, and since I can see plenty of bullet holes around the hotel opposite I remind myself to have a word to Cade. No harm in going through a magazine if need be, but not for potting at a whim, you may say.
Then up rolls a staff car and out pops the Lt-Genl no less, preceded by his BSM. No names no pack drill – I stick pretty close to the yessir nossir routine till he goes inside. Comes back out with a word of praise to us proletariat, heads off. Likely looking though, and at least he takes an interest. I tell you what pet if be it’s a boy, Alexander is a good name.
[And thank you to SM our GM for letting the name Alexander into the campaign in time for Pinko to write it home to wifey. Now even if he doesn’t make it home, Sandy McLean the would-be Bodie of MI6 has his name and Sandi Maclaine has hers!]
Harding and me swap places with Cade, Corp wants a filing cabinet moved. This is what Edson, the police gentleman, wants us to pack out to Prome. We trolley it out, downstairs, past some of Empire’s Outpost Hopefuls burning papers and a dusty look from the desk noncom, and into the lorry. Fishburn lashes it all down before someone decides they want their trolley back, we pile in then off to the races.
Fishburn to the rescue and off by rail bumpity bump
It’s like Doncaster on race day see, but never a white face. Crowds of Indian families walking north, which is where we are going. Then some cars ahead of us turn back, not a good sign. A section of Baluchis is what’s stopping things. Their non-com gives us the right-about – seems there’s a Jap roadblock ahead. I’ve already tipped Corp off to the railway running the way we want to get out of Rangoon, so after some consulting of his gentleman’s guide book to Burma, that’s where we head.
Harding misses a set-to in all the crowd but Fishburn doesn’t, and we fish a wee Indian family out of bother.
[No combat – Williams uses intimidation backed up by automatic weapons, and scores well over 20, to send a small gang of Burmese packing.]
They are headed for Mandalay but have as much show of getting there as the flying fish. We – or rather Fishburn – trades them a lift to the rail for directions. Daphne swings up onto the embankment as bonny as you like and off we roll. But I’m not the only one that thought of using the rail and it’s just as crowded with refugees. Shades of Dunkirk says I and look up and about sharp, to Cade.
[The Bedford is canopy-free, affording a good view from the bed. And besides, you lose your DEX bonus if caught seated in the cab when autofire is laid down on you! None of the squad rides with Fishburn. McLean stays near the tailgate, Harding stands behind Fishburn with some very simple agreed signals between them, Cade sits watching up and around, and Williams keeps an eye on all three of them.]
Two Johnny Walkers is the signal to stop for Mr Gibson
Daphne grinds northish slowly, very unpleasant on the sleepers but you may be sure, better than shanks pony. I say northish, for though we begin on a north-bound line, the rail swings away east to a wee place name of Mingalodon (as far as I can make out). And east is closer to the sharp end, as artillery fire thumping away ahead of us reminds us!
The first four hours though are slow and steady. Offered a chance we’d be off Daphne and commandeering some fuel and maybe a spare wheel to lash on as extra bumper. But by then the flood of refugees only becomes a trickle, so we pay the matter no mind.
Harding taps his signal for hold to Fishburn and luck comes to us in the shape of a newspaperman by the name of Mr Frank Gibson of the Rangoon Times. He uses two bottles of Johnny Walker to wave us down, and hops in the cab cool as you please.
With a ‘why we’re all war correspondents now’ he gives us to believe we may be heading for another Jap roadblock. Sure enough it would be about two hours before sundown and refugees are coming back agin our course. Corp waves one down and there’s a wee bit of jawing, Bombay Welsh to South Welsh as you might say. He’s a charmer as when he wants to be is Corp and bless me if johnny babu doesn’t sketch him out a wee plan of the Jap post.
[Williams gathers info using the Converse skill, scoring a 16. Here, a reminder that skills are house-ruled into more useful aggregates than the 3.0/VfV originals. There are only about 20, some very specific but others covering similar groups of proficiency.]
Corp sends our two steeplechasers forward, they loop right of the rail, into a wee bit of jungle. I fancy I can smell a village on the other side of it, so it’s no more than a few footba’ fields worth.
Cade and Harding: Cade moves first using his poaching experience, guiding Harding [giving +4 to Harding]. There is still some light at this point so they make good time. The paddies are “dry” which is to say they are boggy and absolute no-go for motorised transport. The jungle contains game or villager trails, so the pair successfully move silently [using their Stealth skill]. Harding has a small spyglass that he now uses to good effect. Looking along the second line of bunds (this line is scrub-covered – in Normandy it would be equivalent to bocage) he spots [Notice] both a 4-man squad up beside the rail embankment, and a MG section posted about 20 yards shy of that. Being an old sweat [soldier background] he is able to recall that the MG is the Taisho 11, a relatively short-range LMG. The pair sneak back, again successfully, using cover of night.
Mr Gibson is retailing us with all manner of gossip from the front, though as we all know the front is by and large all around us. But in good time not long after nightfall our pair slog back, and report.
Corp waits some time to hand us our orders and I can tell you if I hadn’t trimmed close my hair would be standing on end, for at one time he thinks to send the same pair alone agin all the Japs. Then at another he’s planning to burn them out using Molotov cocktails – of fine whisky mind you! But with Harding piping up I do my best as well and the orders as Corp hands them down sound achievable.
- The squad moves along Cade’s original path to a Lay Up Point (LUP) where the second bund meets the jungle.
- Cade guides Pinko to a Firing Position (FP) further along the jungle fringe, from where he can lay fire without shooting his squad.
- On Cade’s return to the LUP, Fishburn is signalled using a shielded lighter.
- Fishburn noisily moves the lorry back and forth along the rail staying out of effective rifle range.
- Using this diversion Cade and Harding followed by Williams as reserve work along the bund.
- They use grenades on the MG post followed by SMG fire while the Bren sweeps anything that becomes visible.
Error by night but all’s well in a fire-fight
Trouble is I’m a wee shade taller than Cade and Harding and no sooner do I step foot in the jungle than I run nose-first into a sharp branch or the like [Pinko rolls a 1 on Stealth] and some wildfowl fly up, while I’m busting a gut not howling. Harding whips round and stops me moving and we hold our breath until Cade mutters all clear. [A Japanese sentry moves over the bund and watches for a time, but when the scared birds return to their nests he goes back to his post.]
Well the plan goes ever so well after that little dance, and I’m posted away lying doggo sighting over my Bren towards the rail. I gather the signal works for after a good long time I hear Daphne grinding up. Then what do I hear but Jap laughing and the odd rifle shot. The lads do their bit and we soon wipe the grins off the Japs faces.
Surprise round: Cade and Harding have worked their way to within just under 60 feet of the MG post. Williams, who is by no means as stealthy, is well back. The forward pair hurl grenades. They are on the opposite side of the bund, so the task is equivalent to ‘over a low wall’. Neither make anything like a good throw, but by the vagaries of d20 (distance) and d8 (direction) one grenade lands very close to an ideal place while the other lands safely away in the paddy.
VfV rightly builds some uncertainty into when grenades explode. Neither does so.
Round 1: Harding and cade toss a second grenade each, accurately. The first pair of grenades go off as does one of the second pair. The MG post takes 33 points of damage from two grenades. Pinko fires the Bren at the second squad of Japanese, giving 20 rounds to one 10×10 square and 10 rounds to the next. Two targets appear to be seriously hit, two less so. In response those two Japanese, one a noncom, are seen to scramble into cover across the rail embankment.
Round 2: Harding drops his init to the Japanese as he waits for opportunity target. Cade crawls forward, then the fourth grenade goes off: but he makes his Refl SV with plenty of cover. Williams also awaits opportunity. Pinko reloads. Three Japanese appear from over the rail! Williams misses with his Lee-Enfield but Harding blasts a 10×10 area with his Tommy gun, covering two of them. One drops.
Round 3: Cade is now reasonably close to the rail and unloads a full mag into the Japanese, putting both down.
‘Corp?’ – Pinko
Williams advances, so seeing that, Pinko advances to keep the angle of fire. The Japanese do not return fire – they are dead or dying.
Day two – a bit of light armoured foraging and refuelling
These boys marched light – the camp stove and MG were the heaviest things they had about them – but we take spoils of war, namely some rice and some bayonets that will be bonny as cooking skewers if nothing else. With a bite of sticky rice and rations its brekkie done and north again. This time its proper north, to Letpadan.
The only bother we have is with the armoured mob, the 7th sitting across the tracks with their Honeys, who give us proper khana but jack with fuel for Daphne. Never you mind Corp I say, and let Cade know he’s excused to explore.
[Cade decides to wander and speak to people, gather info using his Converse skill. This works OK – he locates the fuel dump – but when he switches to Convince it’s a different story and the guard sends him away with a flea in his ear.]
Sounds to me Cade may have been too for’ard but Corp has a Welsh gift of the gab. He arms himself with a bottle of Johnny Walker and soon returns with two big cans of fuel. [Williams has plenty of CHA and it’s a much easier task with the actual bribe visible!] Daphne’s back on the road proper from there on, and it’s Prome the next day!
Day three – Prome and off to post
A bit of a comedy shall finish this, then off to post. I’ve not seen anyone look more baffled as Corp when we help Fishburn unload Daphne and no-one appears to whisk the filing cabinet away. [Williams was supposed to jot down the destination: he assumed Edson would be babysitting us the whole way] He decides he’d maybe best see what’s within, and I step away smart-like. What I don’t see I can’t lie about. After a time chuckling up my sleeve I post away and off an MP have direction to the nearest brass.
As I get back I see Cade has got the cabinet closed back up so I stub out my fag on the lock to hide any scratches and let Corp know the direction. Then it’s back into Daphne with the cabinet – Fishburn’s not best pleased – and off to HQ 1st Burma. Corp finds a brass hat willing to take the wretched thing, so job done and off to NAAFI for yrs truly.
And with the successful mission (barring actually delivering the files to the right person) and arrival, two days later, of the main convoy out of Rangoon, the characters all advance to Level 2.
In case you are wondering about what was left unsaid: the Japanese did have papers but Williams did not confiscate them; Cade did not frisk corpses for money; no time was spent on burial detail; firing pins were removed from guns and thrown into paddy fields. Williams looked at but did not steal the files, which were spy stuff.
Overall our squad is working well together. Characters knowing each other quite well is a little unusual for level ones. A fixed order of discipline is another challenge. Before the session I asked about nicknames, and said what they should call me away from commissioned ranks, and made sure the GM knew Pinko is a smoker and rolls his own. I’ll try to fill in smoking habits of the others, next session.
The Imperial Japanese Army outflanked Rangoon but – and here is where their rigid command structure betrayed them – allowed the Imperial British Army and its colonial forces, all 40 miles of road-bound column, to leave by the north. Rangoon officially fell on March 9.
The journey to Prome was indeed menaced by Japanese air power. Against the odds and short of parts and adequate airfields, British, Indian and American pilots managed to shield the retreat to a large extent.
So the British and colonial forces are in Prome. About eighty miles north, beyond the supposedly impassable Pegu Yomas mountains, a seasoned Chinese force has assembled around Toungoo to reinforce the 1st Division. The Brass, as Pinko calls them, are airlifted out to consult with Wavell (commander of the entire far east defence) in Mandalay far to the north. No such luxury for the swaddies – their job is to try to hold the Japanese until May and the monsoon. Wish them luck!
d20 differences, and a short glossary
Skills for this campaign: Athletics (DEX)=tumble, balance; Climb (STR)=climb, use rope; Command (CHA); Converse (WIS)=gather info, sense motive; Convince (CHA)=bluff, diplomacy; Demolitions (INT)=demolitions, disable device; Documents (INT)=decipher script, forgery; Handle animal (CHA)=animal empathy, handle animal; Heal (WIS); Intimidate (CHA); Jeweller (INT)=open locks, appraise; Logistics (INT); Notice (WIS)=spot, listen; Operate heavy equipment (DEX) may include drive large vehicle; Search (INT); Sleight of hand (DEX)=escape artist, pickpocket; Stealth (DEX)=hide, move silently; Swim (STR); Wilderness lore (WIS) includes intuit direction. Knowledge and languages have campaign-related guidelines.
The house rules for the campaign on hit points: at level 1 hp=CON. At level 2 but not other levels, a normal 3.0Ed hp gain occurs. From there at alternating levels characters gain either their CON bonus if any or their hp dice roll.
Glossary of some terms used
Babu: Literally clerk, but not a polite usage
Baluchis: In this case, regular soldiers from Baluchistan
Bombay Welsh: Scornful term for accented English as spoken by Indians
Brekkie: Breakfast (abbreviation)
BSM: Battalion Sergeant-Major (abbreviation)
Corp: Pinko’s term for his Corporal (abbreviation)
Dunkirk: The British Expeditionary Force retreated on Dunkirk in 1940, under air attack most of the time
Honey: Stuart light tank M3
Khana: Food, meal
NAAFI: Canteen service but also coordinated entertainment
Shank’s pony: Afoot