The characters for this session, and starting health:
Cpl Bryn Williams, barely alive
LCpl Pinko McLean, ¾ fit
Ptes Cade and Harding, ¾ fit
NPCs of C Section:
Pte Staples Paddy and Lou, ¾ fit
Pte White, short of a good cuppa
In with the Norths all hands are put to use
It’s hands over the barricade and in we go, a Norths Corporal directs Corp to their HQ while we sniff about for char and a bite. I get a dusty answer when I ask their Corp about his brass – honour of the regiment a fine thing.
By the time we have our laughing gear around a bite Corp is back still looking peaky but has a cup of char. Sitting down with it he gets some colour back and explains we are to set up in one of two trenches.
[Williams: Makes his way to a dugout in a ruin, briefs Lt-Col Todd without stressing urgency, and is asked to volunteer demolitions experts as Todd is working his way down a list of priorities. While Williams stands in a daze Todd re-briefs a Captain to sortie up the chaung and hold the ‘outside bend’ which lies between the MG nest and Carter’s post. Finally allowed to take some tea with him Williams sits and recovers 8hp, bringing him to 9hp.]
Right then a Norths Captain swans up and collars Cade and Harding.
“I understand you chaps have a pair of demolitions men with you” – Captain
“Yer, I like ter blow shit up” – Cade
[Harding and Cade: Corporal Short takes charge of them and lets them sort out ten charges amongst four lorries, two supply stores and a minor bridge. Seven demolitions checks are made between the pair once they outline their plan to the GM. Nothing too inventive, the GM discourages them from going full A-team.]
So after he sets his dregs down Corp waves us Bren team off to a corner of the village, and fag finished or no we find ourselves scrambling around unfamiliar trenches to a lone Geordie.
“Ay up” – Geordie
“This where the excitement is then?” – Pinko
“Ay bloody right it is mun.” – Geordie
“This is Paddy, Lou… I’m Pinko” – Pinko
“[sotto voce] Mother musta named ‘im… [normal] they call me Geordie” – Geordie
“Right lads, let’s get a field of fire cut here” – Pinko, getting on with business
“Had a mate, Bertie, right there – lasted this long and copped it poor bugger” – Geordie
“Did he? …maybe we’ll set up over the way… oh well saves us some digging” – Pinko
“Ah, this must be where we are…” – Williams, cautiously approaching a few minutes later
“Are they with you?” – Geordie
“No… VILLAGE GREEN!!” – Pinko, slamming the Bren cocking lever down
[General laugh at table, except for Williams’ player who has to look the password up in his notes]
[During a lull in Harding and Cade’s planning and trapping, the GM narrates that the Captain, his company, and Ellis the guide, have moved out, and that stretcher parties are beginning to move wounded out of the field hospital set up in the village centre. Cade and Harding have their heads up at this time and are given a Notice check, which they miss.]
A skirmish: Staples draws his blade
Out beyond the wire a few Japs come creeping up to make sure we are paying attention. After I put down a couple bursts Staples slides up bayonet ready and crawls out to them!
“Must be part Gurkha” – Pinko
I glance at Corp to see what he wants and he sets his jaw and crawls out with White following. There’s a bit of scuffle, they all come back with intact hide and Corp tells me I did get one.
[This event begins with Notice checks, Pinko scores best with 22, and is given rough direction of two enemy squads. He puts a half-mag into one 10’x10’ then next round into another square slightly further out. For each the GM asks for a d6 to indicate general accuracy. The 2nd attempt is a 6 and damage is rolled. Staples, who is an NPC, leopard-crawls out. The sound of fighting is soon heard. Williams (still only on 9hp) creeps out and helps Staples, who is locked in melee with one Japanese soldier. Williams finishes the man. Staples is probably lightly knocked about here.]
The night seems to go on with very little happening, though when they join us about 3 in the morning Cade and Harding tell us the hospital is in a fair way to being clear. I can tell Corp is getting worried, he sends Harding right back smart to find a captain and report back.
[Harding eventually finds the HQ and is reprimanded by a sergeant, but Todd tells Harding to tell Williams to hold on, stretcher parties need to be well clear. Very soon word will be sent to join Cptn Hastings and pull back.]
A second skirmish: The MG nest again
It’s not too long before dawn when we finally creep through the barricade and along the chaung. Then Corp tells us he hears Japanese at the MG nest. A fey spirit is on me – it could be that Jimbo’s ghost wants company – and I egg Staples on to have a dab. Much to my surprise Harding joins us. Cade is sent back to warn the village, and I hand my Bren over to Paddy. Corp, my pair and White will follow us.
[Stealth and Notice for Harding who has volunteered to put his skills to good use. He gets 27 on Stealth so has no problem there, but only just double figures for Notice. He leads Staples and Pinko very near the nest. Moreover they are still in line of fire between Williams and the nest.]
Surprise round: All three lob grenades and throw themselves to one side. None of the grenades go off that round.
- Williams/cover team
An alert Japanese shoots at Harding, the bullet burning his skin [7 dmge]. The four Japanese at the nest scatter and a fifth is already on the trail away. Pinko’s grenade knocks two down, Pinko himself stays low and retreats back. Williams, who [poor Notice] is also much closer than he planned, has line of sight and drops one of the other enemy with a fine shot. Paddy puts the fourth down with a burst.
We sort them out – they weren’t set up – then I make sure Staples disables the MG and we get ourselves back to the chaung smartly.
A third skirmish: Good men are lost above the chaung
There’s only one bit of excitement for the next wee while, when Harding runs into the cover company, but I sound off the password and all’s well. By the time we get to Carter we can hear the cover company giving fire, so I ask Corp should we no help Carter for a bit. About this time Harding who is no fool reminds Corp he has a spare charge in his pack. Corp sends him ahead to the wee waterfall shelf where we left Hookie, so he can make the charge ready.
[The site is where Harding Cade and Pinko took out a LMG and rifles. Carter is set up very much the same way. The GM asks us to set up and we all dig extra cover, facing the same way. Cade is near the chaung, Pinko on the other side of Carter’s section, and Williams Staples and White farthest from it.]
Then wouldn’t you know it, while I’m thinking we’ll sit pretty, Tojo comes tugging on my right elbow!
[Notice checks: Pinko comes out top with a not-great roll, and hears a flank movement.]
“RIGHT!!!” – Pinko, tossing grenade sideways
Surprise round: Pinko’s grenade miraculously travels the correct way and distance and goes off, but fails to put any Japanese down.
- 1st Japanese section
- Williams and rifles
- 2nd Japanese section
Round 1: A Banzai charge brings White, Staples Paddy and Lou into bayonet threat range and Paddy fails his Will SV. One Japanese, attacking Lou, mistimes and leaves himself open, Williams tries a shot and hopelessly misses [nat 1]. Cade swings and fires, [12 pts damage] the man recoils away from Lou. But an LMG in the 2nd section fires at Lou, driving him out of any cover. Pinko swings the Bren right round (exposing himself out of his scrape) yells “down Paddy” and sprays a mag over a wide area, catching one Japanese but not dropping him. Two others who have already shrugged off his grenade blast are fine: Carter’s Tommy gunner blasts the earth all round them, making them hesitate.
Round 2: The Japanese clipped by Pinko tosses a grenade right on Carter’s Bren nest, catching most of both sections! 17 points off all who fail Refl SV and Staples and Williams are down and out while Pinko is shaken by the blast. Another Japanese fires directly at Pinko, clipping him [16 dmge]. White clubs his opponent, Cade fires dropping one of the lead Japanese, and vaults out of his trench and [Athletics 23] slides dangling down into the chaung so he can still fire up at the oncoming Japanese. Paddy fends his opponent off, Lou seems not to be sure what to do, Pinko’s Bren jams as he makes a retreating burst at the man that shot him: he leaps into the chaung, landing safely [Athletics 10+].
“Scarper lads!” – Pinko
Round 3: Though not taking wounds from increasing numbers of opponents, White fails to disengage. Cade drops the Japanese that shot Pinko. Paddy and Lou club men aside and run, sliding down to join Pinko, who clears his jammed Bren.
Round 4: Cade shoots a triumphant Japanese, forcing him to duck back. White sells the dummy and runs, as Pinko’s last grenade sails in. White lands safely in the chaung.
“Run like the clappers!” – Pinko
Next several rounds: Cade slopes back at normal pace, as rearguard, but [making a nat 1 on Notice] is fired on before he sees the oncoming pursuer. Cade’s return fire is deadly and further pursuit is discouraged!
The survivors (who include 2 of Carter’s team who were fairly unproductive in the fight) meet Harding and Hook at the waterfall. Harding has set his charge at the natural foot-path up.
A fourth skirmish for the survivors
Battlefield layout: The waterfall, so called, is a trickle down roughly one fathom drop. Jungle on either side and behind, save for the foot trail Ellis led the platoon down. The GM asks Pinko to set his troops, which is surprising, but PC action first I suppose… The Bren team are all still alive so Pinko sets up about 30’ back from the lip, and asks for flank cover from the others. Harding has to be well forward to time the blast so Carter’s Tommy gunner stays with him, while White Cade and the other rifleman guard the other flank well up on the lip. Hook’s section drops even further back. Pinko approaches them and not-very-politely obtains a grenade.
It is dawn, and Japanese can be seen as they arrive in sight of the obstacle formed by the waterfall. It is a section with LMG. The section splits into two and the LMG sets up.
Surprise round: Waiting politely until the half-section is actually up to the climb, Harding sets the charge off and demolishes the entire half-section. Pinko and Cade toss a grenade each. The second half-section dies before it can pull out.
The LMG makes a token run of firing up at the lip but there are no targets and it pulls back.
This time it’s a ferry out, and a rustbucket of an old piece of claptrap it is. Shwegyin is still merry hell behind us with the Gurkhas pinned up on the bluffs I hear, but we are for the long road to India
Overall we were more relaxed than usual, with more of an adventurer group vibe, joshing and giving lip. I felt it was justified in-character by the glow of surviving the first leg. The section did what it was asked to do and more besides. We had lost one, but all seemed set for a safe retreat…
We also ably demonstrated British tunnel vision that – historically – resulted in being surprised each time a flank attack came in!
The GM told me later that each action we took or did not take had a result, but he need not have, it all felt like that in-game. That is, sorties would mean more hesitant Japanese pursuit while purely pulling out with minimum risk would mean close pursuit in numbers. I suppose that’s why I pushed to help Carter – it made sense on the escape route.
A desperate evacuation-style holding battle over a number of days in early May 1942, during which troops and refugees were ferried off. Slim’s direct appeal brought a few vital civilian vessels south, though only to a sheltered bluff just north, not directly to the jetty. “After that no crews, whatever their skippers did to induce them, would come downstream again. That was an end to the last chance of getting anything out of Shwegyin except mules and men and what they could carry over the roughest and steepest of paths.” Guns, tanks and vehicles remaining in the basic were destroyed. “…the loss of the tanks was a terrible blow. True, they were worn out, but… they held such a sentimental place in our esteem… that it was like abandoning old and trusted friends…”
The march to India:
“Although we did not know it then, we had fought the last action of the campaign. 48 Brigade and some other units were taken upstream from Kalewa to Sittaung, whence they marched through the hills to Tamu, while the steamers that carried them were sunk to avoid capture. The rest of Burma Corps marched from Kalewa, ninety miles through the Kabaw Valley, well-termed Death Valley on account of its virulent malaria, to Tamu – a grisly march!”
WJ Slim F.M, Defeat into Victory
That’s it for the season. It remains to be seen whether a second season will become reality. Obviously Williams’ player, disappointed, is less keen than he was. There’s also debate about D&D progression versus a gritty WWII setting. So, let’s treat this as a one-off for now and bid farewell to Burma!