BS1.11: Their bodies lie unburied

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.]

Combat

Surprise round: All three lob grenades and throw themselves to one side. None of the grenades go off that round.

Initiatives:

  • Japanese
  • Staples
  • Pinko
  • Williams/cover team
  • Harding

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.

Combat ends

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

Combat

Surprise round: Pinko’s grenade miraculously travels the correct way and distance and goes off, but fails to put any Japanese down.

Initiatives:

  • 1st Japanese section
  • Williams and rifles
  • Cade
  • 2nd Japanese section
  • Bren

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.

Historic Note

Shwegyin:

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!

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BS1.10: Rescue them Norths!

 

The characters for this session:

Cpl Bryn Williams

LCpl Pinko McLean

Ptes Cade and Harding

The rest of C Section:

Ptes Paddy and Lou, Bren section

Pte Staples, Jimbo and White

We kick off with Level 4 gains all round. Most characters now have respectable defence bonus. Depending on which of combat, recon or leader classes they are, Fort Refl and Will may still be low. Combat is basically Fighter, recon is basically Rogue for example.

At this level class feats are taken by all; one attribute point increases by one point; and per the house rules for balanced grittiness, hp increase by CON bonus only.

Owing to reduced rations, all characters reduce total hp to ¾ (rounding up in the character’s favour.)

 

In Shwegyin’s basin, the platoon gets its orders and prepares

We fish ourselves up from the latest air-raid and I wander over to HQ to chat to Fishburn. Corp has been called in to some brass briefing and Fishburn has the latest buzz. He looks well enough considering we are onto half-rations. I rib him about being back behind a wheel and pass him a fag. He tells me it’s not just Regiment brass (Lt-Col Chelmsford that is), it’s Bill Slim in there as well.

Corp eventually toddles out and before he makes for the QM he passes on the news that Lt. Barnet is still Chelmsford’s blue eyed boy and we have a mission to un-spring two companies of Royal Norths from a trap. A Burmah Timber Company man name of Ellis will guide us there. Battle kit only, it’s a one-night job, in and out.

Corp seems to be speiring about a Tommy gun again so I says, Corp why not shufti about for a looted Jap pistol, mind you I did break that one with my bare hands, and he brightens and sets off for the QM.

[We players now have a chance to ask for any extra equipment. Williams’ player is keen on rifle grenades while Cade’s player wants Cade to be a sniper. Once again Williams’ player is unsure what firearm best suits this mission – the Tommy gun is a good close-range option –  so a nudge about pistol is called for.

We should have thought about rope but the existing gear is being cut right down, to half-light-load for most characters.

Williams makes various logistics checks and scores:

No.4 Mk1 Lee-Enfield with sniper scope

Browning high-power autoloader pistol with 13x9mm magazine]

 

Along the night trail, dropping off Hookie and finding the first nest

We lorry there crowded in with Hook’s boys, munching our dinner of tea with one hard-tack biscuit, topped with bully beef. Twilight in Burma is a fine sight, the sight of a dozen or so soldiers with their ration is not as fine.

Ellis, an old-timer with a teak-coloured face, explains the trail and Barnet goes over the plan.

[Notice checks. Williams scores a nat 1]

“Wasn’t your name Wallace? I swear I wrote it down…” – Williams

We can hear small arms and the odd grenade, east, as Fishburn hands out pegs dipped in some glowing paint so we can see the man in front of us in the dark.

The plan is simple enough that even I can follow it. Ellis’ll lead us from a side-trail near the village the Norths are trapped in, down a chaung that leads there through the jungle. All we have to do is get rid of any Jap nests and lead the Norths out to the road where lorries and a Honey or two will get them the Shwegyin.

So we head down the trail, no problem, and lower ourselves into the chaung. Hookie and his lads stay back up above the chaung to cover our rears.

Since Harding and Cade are good at creeping forward, C section gets to go first, lucky us, and after a quiet half hour or so our crafty pair find our first Japs. Me and my lads Lou and Paddy are next in line and Cade signals me up.

[The scouts are asked for Notice checks. They score rather middling. Then on second time around Harding with a 19 smells a campfire and hears a boil-up.]

When they cue me in I hand the Bren to Paddy and up we climb. [Wilderness Lore, Pinko lets the others lead and with their help makes a fair roll]  Only trouble is when we get within sight there’s more than three nips so I hold up me chiv and a grenade – the lads both point to the grenade and pull one each. Then it’s one-two-three and heave and cover, and seeing Mr Tojo has a bad evening.

 

Combat

Battlefield layout: A Japanese LMG nest has been constructed above the right side of the chaung (looking down it, the way the Japanese are guarding) with three riflemen supporting the LMG. The three are brewing up the evening meal of rice. They have done little to the ground so there is still plenty of brush to dive into and trees to dodge behind.

Surprise round: three grenades are tossed, Harding throws his long and its blast will be largely deflected off the natural glacis of the LMG nest. Cade’s and Harding’s grenade go off, one of the riflemen is down.

Initiatives:

  • Harding
  • Pinko
  • Japanese
  • Cade

Round 1: Harding tosses a second grenade accurately. Pinko’s grenades goes off and another rifleman is flung down. (Pinko stays in cover.) The last rifleman goes to cover and shoots at Cade, missing, while the Taisho (LMG) sends a burst at Harding and misses. Cade does not miss the Taisho gunner who drops.

Round 2: Harding’s grenade goes off putting the final rifleman down and between Harding and Cade the LMG loader is hit and put down.

Round 3: Pinko checks to make sure the enemy are actually dead while Cade and Harding move to the nest perimeter and listen [Notice, both good] and decide there are no reinforcements coming.

Round 4: Pinko and Harding pull out, Pinko notices Cade lingering over the corpses.

“Lad, you don’t want to be left behind…” – Pinko, leaving

Cade loots 10lb of rice after a few rounds search (he has case the joint allowing double-speed search, but has about 4 search-grids of area to cover)

Combat ends

 

A bit of planning and a snipe hunt on the next nest

We leave Carter chuffed at having a nice Bren nest to set down on, and box on down the chaung after Corp has handed Cade and Harding a grenade each. He has one left. After maybe another half hour the lads hold us up again.

“I spotted tracer rounds coming from up ahead – stay here and we’ll see what’s what” – Harding after a Notice check of 23

[Cade and Harding: some more Notice and Wilderness Lore checks, Harding with telescope and Cade with sniper scope, tell them there is an emplaced MG and probably a half-section or section in support.]

Turns out there’s a machine gun nest sited just west of the jungle fringe, firing into the village. Harding pops back and explains Cade is somewhere up ahead waiting to snipe, we have to get round and attack from the flank.

Corp tells off Ellis to stay put and I follow Harding out, Lou and Paddy next, then Corp, then Staples  White and Jimbo.

Once we get near enough to hear the Woodpecker (that’s the MG name, or at least our name for it) Corp says, Staples you go with Harding, five minutes time I’ll kick off with a bang. They slip away and I creep closer, Paddy and Lou right with me.

[Once again Wilderness Lore with Pinko best on 21 and Notice with Williams best at 20. The result is that the main team gets to good position, from which Williams can see 3 Japanese per flank of the MG, with an officer and Non-com besides.]

We have them bang to rights only things go a bit tits-up and we end up dragging Corp out and we’ll bury young Jimbo if we have time.

 

Combat

Battlefield layout: An MG nest (moderate cover, no roof) is sited a few feet inside jungle fringe, aimed at the village. Three riflemen are arrayed on each side, in light cover, again facing the village. A non-com and officer are a few feet back from them, roughly left-rear. Harding and Staples have crept up to within 15’ through the jungle behind the Japanese, Williams and Co. to within 30’ on the Japanese right-rear, and Cade is about 200’ back to the right. In theory none of the British can shoot one another.

Surprise round: Williams ‘kicks off’ by firing at the officer, hitting him. Cade (making a good Notice check) fires at the MG crew, hitting the gunner. Pinko hoses the MG nest, putting the loader out of action. Harding pitches a grenade which goes off annihilating two enemy riflemen nearest to him.

Initiatives:

  • Harding
  • NCO
  • Cade
  • Japanese rifles
  • Williams/rifles
  • Bren team
  • MG

Round 1: Harding puts the remaining rifleman on that wing down with a burst from his Tommy gun. Staples hits the officer, dropping him. The NCO dives to cover. Cade’s next shot ricochets off the MG nest. The surviving wing of Japanese rifles take cover and seeing this Williams pitches his last grenade with these immortal words:

“I’m a better hand with grenades than I used to be… oh crap” – Williams, rolling a miss

“Just don’t roll a 5” – GM; watches a 5 duly come up on the direction d8

The grenade unerringly hits a tree-trunk and bounces straight back at Williams, covering he, White and Jimbo. And explodes. Refl SV! Williams (fail) is on 1hp, White (ok) is knocked about and Jimbo (fail) is on death saves.

“Reload” – Pinko, hosing the riflemen

The MG is facing the wrong way and unlike a Taisho is not something that can just be swung around.

Round 2: Harding tries a burst at the NCO but misses, but Staples bayonet-charges and wounds the man. The NCO manages a tricky disengage-and-fire: Staples misses his chance of another stab, but is unhurt. Cade succeeds in targeting the gunner and having taken some grenade damage earlier he is out. The surviving Japanese rifleman throws a grenade, poorly, and it explodes between the sides. Gritting his teeth Williams fires and misses.

“Reload” – Pinko, unapologetically hosing the lone rifleman with a full mag

Round 3: Harding and Staples both close and finish the NCO.

Combat ends

In for a quick cuppa with the Norths

I send Lou back to fetch Ellis up to our position then half-dragging Corp we slip down to the village and over a pile of dead Japs exchange watch-words with the Norths and bundle in. They are that glad to see us, and who knows, we may get them out with a whole skin.

 

A brisk session of two combats, it was quarter to knock-off time before we knew it.

In ideal circumstances we might have just sent Harding to tell the Norths to creep out, but as it is Williams and White need a good cuppa! So we agreed on moving into the village, allowing the GM to plot something nasty for next session should he feel so inclined.

In terms of clean-up the final combat ended untidily. The idea was to get out before more Japanese arrived so we left Jimbo and his gear where he fell after checking he was really gone.

I’ve got to admit the incident of the grenade was amusing: a grenade bounce can happen to anyone with a poor roll but Williams has attracted two of them through the sessions so far.

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BS1.09: Demolition

 

The characters for this session, their fitness and arms:

Cpl Bryn Williams, knocked about, Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, in fine fettle, trusty Bren to hand

Pte Harding, fit, armed with Tommy gun

Pte Cade, fit, armed with Lee-Enfield

The NPCs of the scratch force ‘Mitting Bridge’ and their fitness and arms:

Bombardier Postlethwaite, fit, armed with Tommy gun

Gnrs Hitchcock, Withers, Thomas, Crane, Campbell and McDuff, fit, armed with Lee-Enfield

Ptes Staples, White and Lou, fit, armed with Lee-Enfield

Ptes Paddy Jimbo and Ward, knocked about, armed with Lee-Enfield (Paddy checking captured Bren)

Driver Fishburn, fit, hot char and a fire

It is a short time after the final bodies have been pitched into the river and a cuppa served. Williams has disposed men anew. Pinko has ‘an idea’ and is back in the village with Lou, Harding and Fishburn; Cade Staples and White are fit and on duty in the cutting; and the other three are resting. Gunners are extending and deepening slit trenches.

It also raises Harding’s xp to catch the rest of us on L3, which triggers a free feat handout: all characters receive Favoured terrain: Jungle. Benefit: +3 to Wilderness Lore (a skill Harding has) and +1 to cover, while in Jungle.

 

A ticking-off for the Corp

I’m not up front to see this but the lads fill me in with plenty of local colour added. Cade reports a bus coming up the road and turns out, it’s a lady school-teacher and her young girls, and some amahs. She’s already in dudgeon about finding dead’uns still dangling in the village (seeing as we pulled out without cutting them down) then Cade makes matters worse by poking around inside the bus. Corp gets a right earful and I hear she will do the same to Lt. Barnet.

 

Paddy is second Bren

Meanwhile Paddy comes back to me where Harding Fishburn and me are tucking Daphne away inside a basha. He says as how he’d like to operate the second Bren and Corp says its OK and will Fishburn mind helping. Well I am a wee but surprised as last I saw, Paddy was sipping tea and shaking with the wobblies, but aye right says I, if you are up to it you have my blessing for what that’s worth!

Paddy fills me in on where the gunners have gone as we walk back over the bridge to keep extending the slit trench by it. Paddy and Fishburn will extend the left-flank trench to get a sweep on the cutting. We are just finishing chatting about converging fields of fire (me right, him left) when Cade pipes up about a column of troops.

[Cade has rolled two Notice checks so far in the session, both above 20 – a great start]

 

A right shower

Turns out it’s a column of Indian troops but it’s my guess they are deserters as have shot their officer and buggered off. Some has their bundooks, some don’t. When I grab one and riddle him on his officer and unit he has his answers down pat so he ain’t a Jiff, as we call the traitor units. They straggle away west and good riddance, keep them around and we’d be next ‘killed in action’.

[Rightly or wrongly Williams concludes they are simply a broken unit and lets them by without pressing them into service or grilling them. They react threateningly when Pinko collars one to question, but as he does not stop them moving on the incident ends peacefully.]

 

A Honey brings an update

[Refugees scatter as a Honey and a column of lorries forges up the road. Its commander, Abe Levy, passes on the news that the remainder of the 7th Armoured and the ragged Chinese column should be here the next day. He warns Williams once again that the Chinese will steal anything not nailed down. The lorries bear wounded and cross safely.]

 

By nightfall we are as ready as we can be

For the rest of the day I tick off a few other things on my list – checking the phone line really is out of order, getting the beeve on a line into the river, burying petrol, tools and other gear not being used, finishing trenches, and help the gunners see the way to doing their duty. Lazy sods if you don’t watch them.

“That cloud up there really reminds me of a happy rabbit” – Gunner, reclining and cloud-gazing

“Would any of them clouds remind you of a shovel?” – Pinko, elaborately polite, looming over the gunners

[Funniest moment of the night!]

So by nightfall we have second scratch trench under the three bashas on the hill, a good extended trench on the left with field of fire into the cutting, and four slit trenches around the bridge, two each side.

[Williams has a plan to base the entire double section in the trenches and the brens in the middle of the bridge, but luckily for his disciplinary record Pinko does not hear of this.]

Jimbo and Paddy have had good rests in as much shade as they can find and are both feeling better. Ward though has been put to work, Corp thinking he’s just putting it on when he complains.

[All three begin the session knocked-about as does Williams, but I gather Jimbo and Paddy are given some hp back for just resting. Although Pinko mentions Ward complaining, one of the issues with so many NPCs is that none does express a complaint.]

Corp holds court about dispositions and I give him my opinion, we end up with most of us back of the hilltop under the bashas. Cade and Staples are given first watch and Corp volunteers for second with Harding.

 

The rumble of a tank engine: a new plan

Overnight turns out I don’t get as much kip as I hope for – Corp moves both Bren teams forward when Cade reports movement around the east village. Harding is next on watch and says he hears a tank. Corp calls me over and me and the two demolition lads have a jaw about it. Seeing as you say it’s going to head right into the cutting, let’s use a spare charge to take a track off, says Harding and me. Cade goes us one better and says he can guarantee holing it right up its jacksie. Let’s hear it lad speak up says I and Cade explains that siting two charges like a mortar with metal on top will do the job.

Well it sounds better than jumping atop a tank with grenades so I send Cade to scrounge up something as near to a mortar tube as he can, and send up the big gunner, and I get digging like the devil is taking a whip to me! The pick heads will lie atop the charges once laid.

[Once again the demolition check will be made when actually required!]

 

Dawn and the Japs both

We’re about set, I’m headed back to find Lou on the right when Corp calls they are under way and mortars are setting up. And more nips arriving from the south! Aside from Harding who is sitting in the left trench in case the tank makes a dash, and Corp spotting, the rest of us tuck down under the bashas and the gunners sit tight in the slits before the bridge.

Trenches improved, more added, and charge laid

Well as Corp expects the mortars send a few rounds over, he and Harding are still bobs up, then it all goes quiet and we can all hear the tank. Here it comes with plenty to go round says I and we wait to be called up to the trenches.

 

Combat

Battlefield layout

The field technically extends a few hundred feet east of the kidney hill, out on the flat cropland where the Type 95 (Ha-Go) light tank and three full sections (which I denominate Ichi, Ni and San for this AP) move to the attack. Because Williams concentrates on lulling the enemy into a false sense of security action does not get under way until the lead sections are about 200-250’ away from the slit trenches on the kidney hill.

In case of a flank attack Williams details the gunners to remain at rear covering the river, then as it becomes clear there is no immediate flank attack brings three of them as forward reserve to the bashas trench, but fails to call them into action – so only C section and Fishburn are ever actually engaged.

Preliminary rounds: With a natural 20 Harding reports a section tucked behind the tank, another further back on the road, and a third immediately in front of the defences. Cade is posted in the central slit trench and waits for a good shot. The tank commander peeks out of his turret, but Cade misses. All Japanese advance and Cade tries for San section’s LMG, getting a near miss. Return fire peppers the forward trenches and Williams calls for fire on San section.

Surprise round: Pinko and Paddy empty mags onto San, the majority of its members are hit.

Initiatives:

  • Ha-Go
  • Harding
  • Ichi
  • San
  • Cade
  • Pinko/Paddy
  • Williams/rifles
  • Ni

Round 1: Ha-Go advances, firing its MG. All Refl SV OK, Williams with a nat 20. Ichi follow Ha-Go, San survivors fire up at the trenches, Cade misses his shot, Pinko and Paddy each put most of a magazine into Ni section’s LMG, dropping the gunners. Williams holds and the rifles have trouble spotting targets. Ni section follows Ichi along the road.

Round 2: Ha-Go fires its main gun at the middle trench. Fort SV! Ward fails and is out. The Ha-Go rolls on with Ichi trotting behind it: Harding waits tucked alongside his plunger. LMG fire rakes the right trench and Pinko fails his Refl SV, gets a scratch [5 damage]. Cade replies without effect, but Pinko puts his 5-round burst into the offending LMG, dropping the gunner. Williams and the remaining couple of rifles are largely ineffectual save for Jimbo who manages a miracle shot dropping Ichi’s Corporal. Ni section hustles to level with Ichi: both are within a charge of the trenches.

Round 3: Ha-Go rolls over the first wire into the cutting, Harding operates the charges. With bonuses from Cade and ingenuity his total is 32! Reducing by soak and hardness, 20 damage strikes the crew and the Ha-Go brews up. Ichi and Ni are ready to charge, dropping the Ni section LMG off as support, but Ichi are disconcerted by the tank’s fate and hesitate. San section’s lone survivor shoots Pinko, wounding him [15 damage]. Cade drops one of Ni section’s gunners and Pinko and Paddy account for a couple of Ichi section. Williams tosses his grenade, which goes off, killing two more. Ni section makes its Banzai charge – Will SV for the left trench! Fishburn and Paddy are both OK but are in melee. Williams and Harding are unaffected.

Round 4: Harding pushes forward and hoses Ichi, wounding one. They run! Cade lobs his grenade behind Ni section, and it goes off exactly right, killing three not in melee. Pinko reverts to normal natural 1 Notice, fails to spot where the shot came from and lies back rolling and lighting a fag [3 hp back]. In the left trench Williams wades in with clubbed rifle, while Paddy and Fishburn simply fend the bayonets off.

Round 5: Harding uses his Mobility, dodges in past Fishburn, trips Fishburn’s opponent, Fishburn finishes the job. Williams and Paddy, with precise shot from Cade on the flank, finish the two remaining. San section’s lone survivor discreetly pulls out, still unseen.

Combat ends

 

Ava and India

I spend a few minutes rubbing mud into the nice bright scratch on me helmet – that was quite the knock it took. That’s after we say words over poor Ward’s grave, first lad to fall since we left Rangoon. I’m all safe and sound though, and we patrol the east village and put the dead soldiers there to rest. About that same time the lead scouts from 7th Armoured draw up and we explain what’s what. They’re ever so chuffed and warn us again about the Chinese. Corp tells them we have most of a beef for the Chinese and will have eyes peeled. Which we do. The Brigade and Chinese roll by and what with us standing-to  with Tommy guns and the beef to carve the Chinks make no problem for us. And with that we retire west and Cade does the honours.

Well later when we watch Ava bridge fall – us being about last over pet – it is more impressive but there’s a feeling you done your job properly when you watch your own charges go off and the bridge fall into the river. And that’s us for India – next post from Assam I hope, where they grow the tea. A nice cuppa char will set me right up.

 

Historic note

The free feat Favoured Terrain: Jungle handed out at L3 represents the section no longer treating the jungle as trackless and hostile, an issue that in real life, plagues the British and Indian armies and that detailed training corrects by late 1943/early 1944 as divisions are rested and retrained. General Slim is keenly aware that most divisions have no relevant training for Burma and does his best, fighting a resentful and slothful administration, to get his men fit and trained. It is a slow process, to say the least, and involves a revolution in mindset.

Unlike the retreat from Dunkirk, the retreat from Burma is seen, even locally, as shameful. (Think: US soldiers’ experience post-Vietnam.) Since Japanese are deemed to be an inferior race that only need to be ‘stood up to’ (according to military leaders like Wavell) it follows that those beaten by them must be cowards. For the ordinary Tommy or Sepoy this mindset flips around to surround the Japanese soldier with a mythic aura as somehow unbeatable.

Glossary

Amah: nurse-maid

Beeve: An old term for beef carcass. I thought Pinko might use it as a family hand-me-down word

Bundook: Rifle

Jacksie: Arsehole. Pinko is referencing Cade’s thoughts, and Cade has absorbed some Cockney slang

Jiffs: Japanese-Indian-Forces – officially the Indian National Army. They are a threat at this time, but so are deserters

This version of D&D commits you to two types of resource management: gear/ammo; and fitness. I do like this aspect, though I thought maybe the onus was being placed too much on players and not enough on the NPCs (ie the GM) to keep tabs on which of them is unfit? Since none of the players know exact health (hp) of NPCs and it’s a black-box, not a fair puzzle.

This session proves that tracking fitness poorly (or not caring if a character is unfit, or not speaking up as an NPC) can be fatal!

Ideas for prep were important so I had fun – I always have plenty of ideas. I’d had the ‘hide Daphne’ idea last session but have to do these things bit by bit so I don’t overplay Pinko. Likewise, trenches under the forward bashas. I confess I got the idea for putting pick handles on top of the charge from Gate, the anime series, where the protagonist does the same thing to kill a dragon. The Ha-Go is a lot weaker than that dragon!

I can’t blame Williams’s player for exposing Ward, since it’s quite likely that he was just short of a good cuppa when he had the bad luck to fail his Fort SV. I would have been much more inclined to expose the gunners since all of them were fit, and Hitchcock has a free pass besides.

The original agreed plan assumed that the Japanese would make use of the night to get close, ready for the dawn attack. The tank’s presence changed that completely and Williams failed to adapt the plan sufficiently – again, I did ask him to bring the reserves up and use the range available. Equally if he had done that, MG fire may have dealt more casualties. Once again it worked out pretty well.

There’s one more mission (probably 3 sessions) remaining in the season, so stay tuned!

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BS1.08: Dawn’s narrow squeak

 

The characters for this session, their fitness and arms:

Cpl Bryn Williams, knocked about, swapping back to a Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, in fine fettle, trusty Bren to hand

Pte Harding, tired, armed with Tommy gun

Pte Cade, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, armed with Lee-Enfield

The NPCs of the scratch force ‘Mitting Bridge’ and their fitness and arms:

Bombardier Postlethwaite, tired, armed with Tommy gun

Gnrs Hitchcock, Withers, Thomas, Crane, Campbell and McDuff, tired, armed with Lee-Enfield

Ptes Staples, White, Jimbo and Paddy, fit, armed with Lee-Enfield

Ptes Lou and Ward, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, armed with Lee-Enfield

Driver Fishburn, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, hot char and a fire

The defence

A reminder about the field:

Aligned north-south. 1 square=100′

The cutting through the kidney hill is defensible. Williams has chosen to lay trenches along the crest of the kidney hill, the south flank, and the north flank – above the cutting though not directly above it. Pinko has added a bug-out trench one run-move away from the furthest, on the south-east side of the bridge. It covers the bridge and the cutting.

Three bashas line the hilltop, west of the crest itself. They are not in use.

West of the river a village spreads in an untidy sprawl.

At extreme rifle-shot east of the kidney hill a larger hill rises on the road’s north flank and another, larger village sprawls south of the road there. Both are obvious threats to the bridge (as muster points and dead ground for mortars) but lacking a sniper and a means of communicating, Williams cannot reasonably station a picket there.

 

That one special cup

Refugees have been coming through all this time a few at a time, some in bigger groups but none as looks like fit military age lads. I’m down by the Mitting river getting that trench deep enough, when up comes Fishburn with a good pot of char. Nothing like it when you’ve sweated across a few miles of dust and scrub. It does Lou a world of good.

“How’s Taffy doing – should be good at digging, being Welsh an all” – Fishburn

“He’s doing well – at telling us ‘you do it’” – Pinko

Off Fishburn toddles and later I see the char has done Corp no end of good too.

[This effect relates to the firearm/ordnance damage house-rules. Since until a character hits zero hp damage is taken to be stress and fatigue, things like tea and cigarettes help. The house rule for recovery in this manner:

Once per day that special cuppa char will restore 2xLVL hp

A quiet smoko will restore 1xLVL hp

Example: Williams is down 11hp after the incident with the kicked grenade last session. The cuppa restores twice his level in hp, or 6hp.]

By this time our two lads below the bridge, Cade and Harding, have had plenty of time to wire charges so I make sure to keep my eye on them as best I can. I can see up the cutting through the hill that both concertinas of barbwire have been laid and Corp has a couple of the lads on duty letting refugees by.

 

 

A staff car brings a brass hat

Back to the blunt end of my idiot stick and sweating away, I hear a bit of fuss on the hill. Some brass hat arrives in a staff car, Jimbo points him up to Corp, and I can see he’s disappointed to find a Welsh Corporal is in charge of the shoot. All he has to say is, wounded will come through first, then some Chinese outfit that sounds a fierce gypsy caravan, and 7th Armoured. He reminds Corp as we are not to blow the bridge before they are safe on the west side, as though we would forget.

 

Harding the ever watchful

A whiles later I’ve rounded up Corp and the Bom for a smoke and a chat. Mind you he don’t smoke, funny that way is Corp, a chapel thing I suppose. I’ve had a nasty feeling about Daphne and the village and Corp, who looks as though he could do with forty winks, tells me go ahead man. I take the Bom, Postlethwaite, and explain my idea.

Finally Harding and Cade have finished and I catch them up quick smart. I am about to get my plan for the village sorted when Corp whistles Harding up the hill.

“It’s getting dark. You’re on watch” – Williams

“Oh righto then” – Harding, who has been on watch in Daphne, engaged in a firefight, and wiring explosives, since his early start the same day.

 

A disturbance at the barricade nearly proves fatal

I’ve still got Cade Lou and Paddy and gunners, so I explain as how I want defences under the western two bashas in the village. And, I want the cushiest basha found so we can get some good kip, or put wounded up safe.

I’m thinking over how to keep Daphne safe from air attack – that’s another wee gem the brass mentioned to Corp – when there’s a shout from the hill. Harding the sleepless eye has seen aught. [Harding makes 27 Notice] The Corp yells to Ward to close the barricade, where an oxcart is wanting to get through, and firing and great fun for a few moments!

 

Combat

Initiatives:

  • Harding
  • Williams
  • Infiltrators
  • Staples
  • Jimbo
  • Ward

Round 1: As the ‘Burmans’ begin digging things out of their ox-cart Harding swings his Tommy gun onto them and shares out a full magazine. And prudently sidesteps towards the trench. Only one appears to be affected. Williams, now regretting swapping back to a Lee-Enfield, aims down into the cutting but just misses in the gathering dusk. One infiltrator swings up a Japanese SMG and sprays the bank around Williams and Harding, forcing Harding to dive hastily into the trench he’s beside. The other infiltrators level rifles and the ox, alarmed by the gunfire, galumphs west, barbed wire or no barbed wire. Jimbo fires wildly and plunges to cover behind the curve of the northern hill-end, and Ward dives for cover first and readies his rifle second.

Round 2: Harding rights himself inside the trench and reloads. Williams remains defiantly upright and misses again. In reply bullets whip through his khakis and ping off his helmet! [He is on 3hp!] Neither Jimbo nor Ward are hit. The ox blunders through the wire, dragging it along. Staples Jimbo and Ward fire and dust leaps off one infiltrator’s trouser leg.

(Cade hurries to the bridge and Pinko swings his Bren to the ready and advances to the nearest bridge parapet, to brace the bipod.)

Round 3: Harding leans up over the trench side and puts a burst into the infiltrator with the SMG. Williams fires across his body from the hip as he dives into Harding’s trench. The SMG, seeking cover, pulls back right next to Jimbo (but around the cutting’s corner) while other infiltrators also seek some cover and miss their shots. Jimbo and Staples fire again and Ward tosses a grenade, not entirely accurately.

(Cade is now at the bridge end and Pinko has now set the Bren up. Cade calls ‘there’s firing – in the cutting’ to make sure Pinko knows where the problem is, shoots at the ox, and misses.)

Round 4: Harding has a chance for another burst at the leg-wounded infiltrator, takes it, and puts the man down. Williams surfaces cautiously and scans the entire area [Notice 21] getting a good picture of who’s where. There seems no need to call for reinforcements, and he can see Cade on the bridge. One infiltrator shouts a battlecry and charges Ward, bayonet extended! Ward parries him off with difficulty [FORT SV 20] but is struggling. One of the two remaining infiltrators with rifles nicks Jimbo, but the youngster bravely holds his ground and finishes off the SMG wielder. Ward’s grenade goes off, injuring the ox, damaging the cart, and killing one infiltrator outright leaving one still in the cutting. At his end, Ward tries to disengage and shoot his man, but fails, and is saved by a miracle shot from Cade who picks out the infiltrator from Ward in the dusk and puts a round into him.

Round 5: Harding vaults up out of his trench to get line of sight and misses with a burst. Williams does still have line of sight and manages to nick the lone infiltrator. Who runs west past Ward! Staples and Ward both shoot him and he drops. As the ox lumbers on, bleeding, Cade finishes it off.

Combat ends

 

Setting watch in two camps is a camp too many

Well after all that fuss we put the wire to rights and it’s lovely fresh beef for dinner, and dinners after that. The cart had a few odds and ends of Jap kit and Corp takes some papers and sketch maps away. He’s all in by this time – shaking he is and I don’t wonder, the silly sod could have got his head shot off – so I go on with my idea about the village. Turns out it’s not such a good one!

The big gunner Hitchcock I think it is, has been told off by Corp as watch on the hill. Lou Ward Jimbo and Harding are all needing sleep, of course, not to mention Corp who is already turning in. I tell Staples Cade and White they are up with the gunner on trenches.

That leaves me Postlethwaite (who outranks me mind) and his other five Withers McDuff Campbell Crane and Thomas; and Paddy of course. Eight of us in the village sounds good to me so that’s one shift on, one off. Postlethwaite tells me Withers and McDuff have stood the journey best so they and we two are on watch first. Second watch will relieve us.

Up on the hill the sleeping beauties Corp Lou Ward Jimbo and Harding get shaken awake eventually, it would be a couple hours shy of dawn, and stand to, then what do they hear but naughty Nip mortars!

Combat

“Oh bugger our goose is cooked and I’m out of sauce” – Harding

“And you said we didn’t have an alarm clock” – Cade, rising quickly

The barrage

As rounds drop along the hill crest all present brace themselves [make both FORT and WILL SV].

FORT: the three PCs present are OK.

WILL: Cade just makes it with a 10, Harding fails and is dazed.

In the village

Pinko checks where rounds are coming from (it could conceivably be from the west)

 

On the hill

Those not dazed [make Notice checks and] see a line of Japanese, already quite near the east slope of the hill!

 

Initiatives:

  • Cade
  • Japanese
  • Hitchcock
  • Williams/Rifles
  • Bottom of round: Bren team

Round 1: General firing from the trenches results in one of the nine visible attackers dropping.

“Get that bloody Bren up here!” – Williams, now awake to how divided the section is

(The village section advances at the double across the bridge, ending spreading out towards the hill)

Round 2: Cade spots a Taisho and a Bren (or Bren lookalike) LMG amidst the attackers, yells the danger but misses his shot. The Japanese scream Banzai! And charge! Those charging the middle and southern trench get to bayonet length, but the northern trench is protected by a slightly steeper grade and they do not quite get there.

[Banzai charge is a feat in VfV. WILL SV for those reached: Harding fails. He can use his active defence but not attack.]

There is a nasty scrape for Cade as he parries a bayonet off his ribs, while the big gunner Hitchcock throws his man back and fires at him. Harding evades. Williams yanks a grenade clear, hurls it – wildly – and screams with the full power of his Command:

“Retreat!!!” – Williams, suiting deed to word

“Advance! Grenades!” – Pinko, suiting deed to word

Out of character: ‘hey, I’m still here you know’ – Cade’s player; ‘you’re a rogue, you’ll be fine’ – me

Round 3: Mills bombs patter down along the trenches. Cade leaps like a jackrabbit from his trench and keeps his footing all the way past the bashas, past Pinko’s line, safe behind the big men. Harding puts a burst down and retreats, weaving somewhat. Hitchcock and the riflemen retire.

“Spread out behind the NCOs!” – Williams makes Command 21 to restore some order

Pinko advances to the bashas on the hill, sees three Japanese above him south, and sends a burst into one, which by good fortune is the Taisho gunner. Postlethwaite leads his gunners (minus Hitchcock) towards the trenches, as with a BANGBANGBANGBANG the hurled grenades devastate the Japanese in the middle trench. The gunners tumble in on top of messy body parts.

Round 4: Harding and Williams hurl grenades accurately at the enemy occupied trenches as the rifles and remaining two gunners advance again, some firing. The ‘Japanese Bren’ is dropped.

“South west flank! Down the riverbank!” – Harding, shouting the alarm loudly

A smatter of fire, including LMG tracer rounds, comes from a sneak-attack party that has been advancing along the steep riverbank, missing completely.

Pinko advances over the hill crest and puts a burst into the south trench.

“Keep watching east – the rest of us will deal with these newcomers” – Williams to Staples

 

Round 5: Cade swings round and fires back at where the tracer came from and surprisingly, drops the gunner! He withdraws to what was the dangerous side of a basha only seconds ago. Harding tries a long-range burst, also retreating. His grenade (south trench) goes off, clearing the trench. Williams’ grenade (north trench) clears that trench. Other soldiers or gunners not yet in the trenches seek cover among the bashas, but more fire from the sneak-attack party hits Paddy solidly and he falls. Pinko, unaware of this or where Lou has got to, leaps on top of the bloody mess in the south trench and sends a hopeful burst into the dark along the riverbank, but misses.

Round 6: Cade can see the Taisho’s loader struggling with the piece and ends his dreams of promotion with another fine shot. Harding puts his last burst down at very long range as Hitchcock begins moving Paddy uphill under a basha. The rifles (and one or two gunners, though they are mainly content to occupy the trenches) fire on Williams’ command and one scores despite the poor light and target. The sneak-attack party pushes on along the bank towards the bridge. Pinko’s Bren jams. [Natural 1]

“Aye, could be they have suicide charges to blow the bridge too” – Pinko, upset

Round 7: Cade tiger-crawls forward downhill and partway toward the river. Harding makes a prodigious throw with his last grenade, to the furthest distance possible (and well clear of Cade). Another hit is scored by rifle fire.

“Grab that enemy Bren, bring it south to Pinko” – Williams to Staples

As the sneakers continue towards the bridge Pinko clears the jam and reloads.

Round 8: Cade manages the classic grenade throw while prone, then hares back towards the hill and cover among the bashas. Hitchcock has now manoeuvred Paddy into a trench. Harding’s grenade goes off and two attackers fall into the river, but the group pushes on.

“Up and at them lads, clear the river” – Williams, concerned about satchel charges

As the rifles fire and advance out of their trenches another Japanese drops but return fire drops Ward. Staples jumps into Pinko’s trench, slams the bipod down and delivers everything in the magazine, while Pinko advances and hurls a second grenade.

Round 9: Cade’s grenade knocks another sneaker away into the water and he makes yet another fine shot to drop another one. The picking-off continues as Harding empties a full mag and rifles fire. The last two surviving sneakers lose their nerve and retreat, but by that time Pinko is above them with a full magazine…

Checking wounded: Ward and Paddy are badly shaken and a number of others have scrapes from bayonets or near-misses. Harding Fishburn and Hitchcock see to bandaging where need be. Grenades are re-distributed but no more than 2 per rifleman can be found now.

Looting: The captured Bren is a real Bren and has three remaining magazines, and they go to Pinko and his team. No satchel charges are found among the sneakers that are not washed away, but apart from worthless paper currency there are some Japanese orders and more sketch maps, and a curved officer’s sword. Williams believes he has confiscated it [Convince] but Harding ensures it mysteriously appears in his equipment [Sleight of hand].

Combat ends

 

Well after a bit of a fright from the east, to-and-fro with grenades and bayonets, then nearly being caught by a flank party, we see Tojo off and dawn’s light sees the mortars retreating out of sight. Let’s hope the next lot we see are our lads! Now I must say ta-ta for now, some more digging to do.

 

Highs and lows: Cade had a stellar session with his rifle. His DEX is very high so most shots will be good, but after the first dud shot all of his were great. Pinko rolled natural 1s with Notice, twice, but that is routine for him, barely worth a mention. As long as my Bren hits I’m not bothered, so rolling a nat 1 for a shot was sad. Finally Williams’ panic was funny, no two ways about it. Deadly dangerous of course, but still funny.

Aside from the humour of the situation there are a couple of things that struck me about the main combat set-piece, which lasted a good long time as D&D 3.0 combats do. 

  1. Not even one minute of ‘real’ time. I know Japanese rush attacks were sudden, but this is ridiculous. Can’t be helped, these are the rules.

  2. The minis need better organisation or identification or ownership. Every session the GM proposes some random figures as section C members, except for Pinko whose Bren held at the hip is distinctive. The gunners are even less distinctive. The result seen in the vital rounds was that no-one was too sure who was who, and Campbell went missing.

If you are wondering if I, as Pinko, was being deliberately obtuse about the danger of splitting our detachment, yes I was. I’m confident next session we’ll have sentries, pickets and fire-teams standing-to.

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BS1.07: The bridge

Characters for this session:

Cpl Bryn Williams: L3 leader, armed with Tommny gun

LCpl Pinko McLean, L3 combat, armed with Bren gun

Pte Cade, L3 recon, armed with Lee-Enfield

NPCs with C Section:

Pte Harding, L2 recon, armed with Tommy gun

Ptes Staples, White, Jimbo and Ward, armed with Lee-Enfields

Ptes Paddy and Lou, the other Bren team members

Driver Fishburn, with Daphne the 3-ton Bedford

Off for a day-trip on Daphne again

Corp comes out the brass’s tent, has another round of jawing with Lt. Barnet, and walks back over waving us up.

“There’s a bridge at some place called Mitting*, we’re to drive there, ready for demolition, defend it until our lads are safe across, blow it and fall back on the rest of the platoon down the road. So, fetch yer kit, and I want a list of other equipment and sundries by the time parade forms in 20” – Williams

* The bridge is over the Myitnge. It allows the 7th Armoured Bde and supporting elements to retreat on Meiktila.

Turns out there’s a few others things Barnet has let Corp in on, that he don’t see fit to pass on, but I’ll mention them as they come up.

So with a quick trip to sick-bay to tell Ward the leech-sore ain’t reason enow to skive off I get the lads on parade and we put our noggins together and come up with a few necessaries, bridge blowing, the up wherefore:

  • Demolition charges and firing gear
  • Picks/shovels/mattocks
  • A winch and cable for Daphne
  • A map and compass
  • Coils of barbed wire to act as temporary roadblocks
  • A new watchword and counter, ‘here I go’ – ‘singing low’

Daphne rumbles up and it’s good to see our old mucker Fishburn. I tell the lads the yarn of our paper errand in Rangoon – funny – they say they have heard it before a few times! But we’re all in high spirits and get a good early start.

 

A pleasant trip is interrupted by a dangling corpse and bombers too

My oath you meet some odd types on the roads these days. We’ve gotten Daphne slowly through the first few crowds of refugees – the usual long-faced hindoo types – when Staples asks Corp why he’s been looking so close at their faces.

“The lieutenant is telling me we can expect jap infiltrators, so it’s the menfolk I’m studying to be sure they aren’t cunning Oriental gentlemen” – Williams

After that you may be sure we’re all ogling the gents like so many gingers! But there’s no alarm until we reach a fork. Fishburn pulls the lorry up and he and Corp stick their noses in the map. Then what do I hear but the sound of aircraft.

“Ditch! Get off the road you black bastards!” – Pinko, gallantly encouraging refugees to safety

The Oscars, if that’s what they are, ignore us and keep on to Mandalay as we suppose. So back into the lorry, me reminding the lads we’ll need foot and boot inspection later, and off on the side road.

Not far along we find a body strung up from a telephone pole, not a looter but some poor sod of a linesman as has been got by the Burmans. On top of that the stretch of wire here has been nicked! There’s naught to be done about that, none of us having copper-core cable about us, but I shimmy up and cut the poor beggar down and we bury him proper, with words said over him by Corp, who’s a good chapel man.

[Pinko’s STR makes him the best climber at present: with checks of 10 and 17 he manages to achieve that]

 

A village crossroad and hijack attempt

We are still bumping around in the back of Daphne as we roll into a nice little village, abandoned we think, at first, until I cop there’s dirty work at the crossroads ahead. All out for day-larks I yell and we dust the naughty Burmans off and send one survivor running to his mummy.

[It’s a T-junction in a small village, basically bashas lining the streets on both sides, with concealment and some cover afforded by their platforms and woven walls. Pinko makes an 18 Notice and sees a lorry being rolled towards the junction, obviously intended to collide with Daphne. He gives Harding the word to signal stop, and readies to cover-fire.]

Combat

Initiatives:

  • Cade/Harding
  • Burman Tommy gunner
  • Williams/rifles
  • Bren team
  • Other Burmans

Round 1: Cade vaults into cover [28 Athletics!] just in time to avoid a Tommy gun firing from right-forward of the T junction. [Those in the back of Daphne need only DC 9 to avoid] Fishburn Lou and Ward are all hit. Williams empties a full clip in return and is disappointed that there’s no immediate sign of success. The rifles vault clear and into cover as best they can [Athletics, only Harding mucks his check up] – two left, two right following Harding. 

“Scramble lads, I’m right behind ye” – Pinko, putting a cover burst in from the hip and vaulting onto the road beside Daphne.

With Lou and Paddy safely in cover left only Williams, Harding and Pinko are obvious targets. The expected intercept lorry rolls down the lane, across the street and ploughs into a basha, a good 20′ in front of Daphne. The cab crew scramble clear and a couple more Burmans reveal themselves further up the street. They are disconcerted by the preparedness of the Brits and no-one takes fire.

Round 2: “Cover fire! Pour it into ’em!” – Williams, possibly realising how exposed he is

Cade duly knocks dusts off the lorry driver. Harding finishes getting safely to cover and Williams follows him, both now threatening the T with their Tommy guns. Pinko steps to cover behind the nearby basha and empties the remainder of the mag into the wall where the Burman Tommy gun fired. Bits of rattan and weave shower the lane as a gap is torn there.

“Reload! You rifles head left and work round” – Pinko to the two rifles near him

There is much shouting in Burman as the ambushers try to decide their next move.

Round 3: “Rifles rally forward on the lorry! I’m advancing!” – Williams

Cade advances right. Through the gap in the basha wall, he can see an arm dangling limply. He moves up with Harding who holds ready. Heeding Williams and ignoring Pinko all rifles rally behind the crashed lorry. Williams hustles forward and across the lane to the damaged basha. There’s no obvious target. [Rolls a 1 on Notice]

“Well those buggers buggered off, it’s up to us lads. With me!” Pinko creates his own flanking movement, exiting behind the basha and hustling forward to the left forward corner.

A Burman sited so as to cover direct up the lane fires and misses a sitter of a shot at Williams, but another Burman pitches a grenade accurately, and it lands behind the lorry among the clumped rifles!

Williams (centre-left) advances ahead of his men

Round 4: Cade scurries across the lane missing a shot at the Burman covering he and Williams, but Harding has line of sight and probably hits with a burst. Williams empties another full clip at the same and definitely hits. At this point his life gets interesting: Staples, Jimbo and White sprint rearward away from the grenade; Ward has maybe seen one war flick too many and boots it away with a mighty kick that happens to send it under the lorry, out across the lane, and very close to Williams! 

Why yes that does cover you. Make a DC15 Refl SV

BANG!! Williams fails REFL SV and takes 11 damage. He’s also unable to hear the next exchange of questions/orders. Pinko puts a lethal burst into a Burman and steps back to better cover:

“Lou, Paddy! Grenades into this’ere basha!” – Pinko

The remaining Burmans fire at Williams but all miss.

Round 5: Cade and Harding both fire again at the resilient Burman covering the lane and at last he drops. Harding scuttles diagonally across the lane to Williams while Cade flanks right, around the basha. While not stunned, Williams gets his bearings and reloads. On the other side of the battlefield Lou and Paddy’s grenades both go off, but are wasted since there are no more living Burmans in that basha. Pinko advances around the next basha. The Burmans begin withdrawing, one firing at Cade who is now rather exposed.

Round 6: Cade returns fire and retires adroitly to cover as the Burman drops. He has a fair field of fire along the back of the bashas but can’t see the main road. Harding empties the rest of his mag into the next basha, with no visible effect. Williams tosses a grenade at fleeing Burmans, and it not only goes off but kills both of them. Pinko puts another burst near the Burmans he is aware of and moves to the next basha for cover. The remaining three Burmans run!

Round 7: “Teach them a lesson!” – Williams, still somewhat deaf

Cade moves in pursuit and wings a Burman, while Harding reloads. Williams waves his rifles forward and they fire down the main road accurately, dropping both the Burmans there. Pinko’s enfilade wasted, he sends a burst at the winged Burman but misses, and that gent flees into the jungle, wiser for the experience.

Check and loot: There are no fatalities other than the enemy, though Williams is quite badly shaken and Fishburn Lou and Ward are the worse for splinters, glass cuts and so on. Four working Lee-Enfields and plenty of spare clips are looted, as well as the Tommy gun, a couple of spare mags for that and enough rupees for a few each. Pinko recovers his empty box mag and reloads it as well as his part-empty mag, leaving 14 spare clips for the rifles. 

Combat ends

 

The bridge! – and another village! – and more to puzzle!

For a bit of a change when we get to the bridge, what do we see but clear fields beyond the river! And a nice little hill for siting in my Bren. ‘Let’s have a dekko’ says Corp and we walk the abandoned little village on our side, across the bridge – two pillars of proper British concrete and about 100′ long – and up to the kidney-shape hill, which has a couple buildings on it.

1 square=100′

Looking out across the fields we see another village and a bigger hill, this with a pagoda on it. The hill shoulders the road, making it bend around. ‘If we had more men I’d say put a picket on that there hill, but we have to check the village anyhow,’ says I and Corp agrees. He’s spotted a couple corpses hung in the maidan.

Once we get some nice slit trenches dug in our kidney hill he leaves White and Staples, and Cade and Harding who are our demolitions boys of course, and Daphne takes us up to the far village.

We’re sweeping it when Jimbo yells there’s a funny coot jabbering at him, and sure enough there’s not just the two poor sods of Indian soldiers dead, there’s a live Burman. I put a couple rounds near enough to him to move him along. Corp goes after him – taking his name and number maybe – but the Burman beetles off and good riddance.

[Cade’s player says he can only remember Pinko as a name to call! I am going for an intimidate check but the GM overrules that in favour of Converse and I roll a terrible roll
anyway, then Williams rolls a 3 for Converse
]

Then up the hill we climb, the pagoda is clear, and far away we see half a dozen of our lads foot-slogging along the road.

 

Far village and pagoda hill. British retreat is from bottom of map.

Some extra pairs of hands from the Royal Artillery

I have a feeling these lads know I’m waiting for them [the position chosen is OK, Pinko rolls a 1 for Hide] so I stand up and ask for their paybooks, nice-like. These are the genuine British articles, a Bombardier name of Postlethwaite and four Gunners from the north, and two Jocks. I whisper in Corp’s shell-like and he offers them a lift in Daphne in return for standing-to with us!

Jimbo acts cool as dammit and what does the snotnose do but offer them a swig each – out of Cade’s hip-flask!

The five captured firearms are duly handed out. As the enlarged section is introduced we leave them there:

The new men:

Bombardier Postlethwaite, northerner

Gnr Hitchcock, northerner**

Gnrs Campbell and McDuff, Scotsmen

Gnrs Withers, Thomas and Crane, northerners

** Hitch’s paternal grandfather

Historical note

Despite Slim’s best intentions it has been 4 weeks of failed schemes and retreats for the Chinese and Allied armies. Now in late April the British army corps (including 38th Chinese Divn) is stretched across a line running from Seikpyu on the Irrawaddy’s west bank, through Chauk, Kyaupadaung, Zayetkon and Meiktila. The 7th Armoured Brigade is somewhere between Meiktila and the Chinese V army which is retreating north, parts of it shattered, through Lashio. It’s understood that the British will act as rearguard.

 

As a player I enjoyed the uncertainty factor at play in the fire-fight. The GM put enemy pieces on the board (mainly to help run them) but did not indicate when one dropped, unless it was obvious. Corporal Williams needs to learn about fire discipline like Harding and Cade did, now he has a Tommy gun. 

One negative, which is just a D&D thing, is the speed of the encounter. The whole thing took about a minute in rounds. There are skirmish rules that more accurately imitate how these types of encounters are very stop-start and tend to take plenty of time.

 

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BS1.06: Flight north

The characters for this session

Cpl Bryn Williams, armed with Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, armed with Bren gun

Ptes Cade and Harding, armed with Tommy gun

The rest of C Section:

Paddy and Lou, the Bren section

Pte Staples, Jimbo Ward and White, all armed with Lee-Enfield

 

In the previous session the lads of C Section stand off pursuing Japanese soldiers in a clearing around a small empty pagoda. But the sharp-eared Staples catches sounds to the west so it is time to flee north again! Lt. Barnet has briefed them on their objective: a rail-depot village with storage and a ferry terminal.

We rejoin our heroes as they hit the illusory safety of the jungle path north out of the clearing.

 

Since this session is about escaping I’m stepping out of Pinko’s brief letters to his missus and writing it in the same style I used with the same GM, as the Surplus Heroes escaped Lewis.

 

A word about damage

There are three types of damage on show today!

The house rule for gunfire damage is that ‘real’ damage from modern gunfire occurs when hp drop below zero. Until then the effect is moral or as proxy fatigue, forcing a recipient to recoil or drop to cover.

Damage done with bayonet and blade is good old-fashioned D&D 3.0 Rules-As-Written.

Subdual damage is also 3.0 RAW, meaning it works in parallel with hp damage. When subdual damage matches current (not full) hp the character loses consciousness.

 

The first five minutes at the double

Williams passes Cade and Harding through his riflemen, reminding them of the watchwords and letting them know he expects them to keep scouting.

“Double for five then we’ll see” – Williams, making an adequate Command check

The path is winding, following the terrain, and already gloom-filled. Harding is point and makes an adequate Notice check. Vaulting some minor gullies without difficulty he and Cade hustle forward and at about the 5-minute mark reach a really significant boulder, too high even for Pinko to rest a Bren adequately on. There, they take position aiming west and keep watch. Harding’s Notice check is a 26!

The Bren team arrive next. Pinko braces his Bren on one end of the boulder and checks his off-siders Paddy and Lou, who are tiring.

Finally the rifles arrive, Williams and Staples bringing up the rear.

“Permission to shed gear Corp” – Staples, already ditching his pack

Others follow suit. Cade decides to shed his as well, though he keeps his hip flask; Harding decides to keep his pack since he is not feeling any particularly fatigue.

“Mind that ye keep weapons and ammo handy. And here – pitch those packs to each side and knock some fronds over them. Happen the nips’ll think we’ve set another ambush” – Pinko

With the skimpy and unconvincing ruse in place – having taken no more than a few seconds – the section hustles once more. On the third combat round after that, automatic fire is heard from behind. Delay achieved!

 

Crossing the creek and exchanging fire

The ground dips as Harding and Cade jog forward, clumsily since the trail is fit for elephant not man. A watercourse, too small and shallow to be called a chaung, runs with water ahead of them. The scouts dither a little but as Pinko catches them, momentum returns.

“Paddy – Lou – spread you out as you cross, make it obvious where you hit the jungle and knock leaves and such about to look like bivvies” – Pinko, striding across covering the back-trail

Even this brief ruse takes time and as the rifles file ahead of Pinko he catches sight of the first couple of Japanese soldiers. [A poor Notice check so they are right up to the creek, but in concealment] With a burst he drops the lead soldier [18 damage, at the first range increment burst fire from a Bren can be deadly]

And as the section hustles on they feel the previous hours of slog and combat taking their toll. The first CON check is made, DC11. Pinko fails and takes 1d6 Subdual damage, 6 in this case, while Williams also fails and takes 1. Harding also fails and takes 2.

 

The second hour: a shot-up village

It is increasingly dark and Cade’s background as poacher/thief becomes more useful than Harding’s knockabout background for feeling their way down the trail. Cade is not the super-spotter that Harding is but he makes an adequate Notice check.

The CON check is now DC12, but this time all characters soldier on. [I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that when characters miss a check the NPCs also suffer]

Cade and Harding find a village, set amidst rice paddies. The half-moon allows them to spot that it is a crossroads, of a kind, so there is a path to the river here. They can also see that the bashas have been shot up and that bodies lie about them.

The nearest basha is about 100’ or so, a bund not too far past that. Harding ditches his pack and runs to the basha. The bodies are Japanese, the buildings have been shot through horizontally, not from the air.

As the Bren team catch Cade, Pinko cuts sharp right and readies his gun.

“I’ll cover you, then you cover us” – Pinko

 

A fire-fight ensues as C Section pulls out

Cade, closely followed by the rifles, duly runs down the road to the village. Williams decides to use the bund as cover. He still has an idea that if enough Japanese are downed they will pull back. Harding checks the village, Cade moves on through leap-frogging Harding. The rifles line the bund.

This takes a little more time than Pinko had expected and he hears [Notice 17, his first good Notice check] the enemy. He puts in a burst, with no effect.

By the time he Paddy and Lou move out the lead Japanese are already opening up.

Initiatives:

  • Cade/Williams and rifles (later drop to follow Japanese)
  • Pinko and Bren team
  • Imperial Japanese Army
  • Harding

Round 1: Pinko and his team regain the path and hustle about 40’. Tracer fire sprays around them and Lou dives into the nearest paddy. There’s no target for the rifles. Harding finds more bodies over on the east path, but is too far away to tell what manner of bodies they be.

Round 2: Cade searches his way to where he can see the north path disappear into the jungle. It all seems clear. Williams senses Japanese gaining the jungle fringe south, and orders [Command] his men to delay. They drop to the Japanese init.

“Rally lad!” Pinko bellows and continues with Paddy. The pair take the nearest basha at a run and dive under it! Lou edges along the paddy-side. Tracer searches out the basha and Japanese rifles fire: Pinko is unsettled [9 damage]. Williams tries to focus his rifles on the LMG but with a poor Command, fails. However, the rifle fire is inspired, three scoring solid hits.

Harding searches the bodies. Some are of Section B. It’s too dark to say what happened to them.

Round 3: Cade hustles north. Pinko steadies the Bren on the basha pile and puts the rest of the magazine across a short stretch of jungle near the path. As the Japanese fire back, Paddy flinches [ie he takes damage] while Lou continues creeping closer. Staples and Williams target the LMG and are accurate but foliage deflects part of their fire [the damage d10 are low].

From where he stands among bodies Harding can now be certain the river is close, but by no stretch of the imagination is there ferry or storage facilities. This is not the objective. He hustles back.

Round 4: Cade finishes his hustle to the jungle but it is too dark to make out any tracks. The Bren sprays further left, bracketing the path, with no visible effect [good saves by those covered].

“I hope ye have another mag Paddy, this is me last” – Pinko

“Wait for the tracer this time boyos, make it count” – Williams, making a good Command check

The LMG searches out Pinko’s nest [another 9 damage] but this time the rifles have seen where the tracer comes from and pour fire back, silencing it!

“Corp! The east path’s a bust – gotter scarper north!” – Harding

“Line of retreat north, lively now!” – Williams

Round 5: Cade fails to find anything with a poor Search check. The Bren team, Lou roughly opposite now, roll out from under the basha and pull back in as much cover as possible. The rilfes file back along the bund to the village, but Williams stays as cover. Harding withdraws north as best he can while keeping to cover and looking for spots where a booby-trap could be placed. [There isn’t one, in the time available]

Round 6 and on: The teams leapfrog one another back out and away, Williams sprinting to catch up.

 

The third hour: the objective is in sight

The CON check is now 13, and this time only Pinko makes it.

The lads are flagging as the trail winds upward. Everyone who needs to has shed gear. Harding and Cade reach a bare knoll from where they can see, north, a sizeable village in a wide clearing with a railway junction and ferry docks! However… with the aid of his telescope Harding can see a British-style barbed-wire entanglement around it, and mortar craters. [He rolls a 1 on Notice so sees only the obvious]

Further back on the line of march Lou collapses. Paddy takes Pinko’s pack, ditches non-essential gear and swings it onto his shoulder while Pinko gets his shoulder under Lou’s arm. This reduces his speed [medium load].

“Paddy – call Cade or Harding back, we need to move faster” – Pinko

Paddy finds Cade and grumbling, Cade returns and protestingly helps Lou. The march resumes at normal pace.

At the knoll Williams musters the section and exhorts it, pointing out the objective. [Good Command check]

Harding works his way down, and eventually finds that the path seems to have been recently blazed [Wilderness Lore, makes 20].

 

The fourth hour: silent knife work

Williams arranges himself, Staples and Harding in front. Walking wounded are bringing up the rear.

CON check is now DC14 and many among the section are flagging. Paddy looks very tired but keeps Pinko’s pack… for now.

The section files quietly towards the broad clearing. [Making a natural 20 on Notice] Williams spots a Japanese detachment, perhaps a platoon strong, facing the village. It is well spread out in the brush at the jungle verge. Mentally cursing, Williams passes the word back:

“We are going around”

Harding now leads off west [makes 12 on Wilderness Lore, which the GM decides produces mixed results] and manages to guide the section around, though not without attracting some attention. There is another, smaller detachment of Japanese in front of him! He swings north-west, passing between the two detachments.

As the Bren team file around the gap, two sentries walk back through the brush to investigate something. They are going to collide with the team!

Laying Lou down quickly Pinko signals to Cade, drawing his chiv out of his boot. Cade nods and draws his own commando knife. Then Pinko realizes Lou will be seen as soon as the sentries get close. Right then, he thinks, let’s take advantage of that!

Paddy Pinko and Cade pull back against trees between Lou and the sentries. As the latter begin making Lou’s shape out and are 5’ past the trees Pinko and Cade step behind them and go for the grapple-and-stab!

After a complex grapple combat [which is dreadfully involved so I won’t try to explain it] Pinko’s enormous strength achieves one dead sentry and Paddy and Cade manage the other between them.

 

Crawling to safety

With both detachments none the wiser, C section nears the rail and pauses to work out what options they have.

“Corp – this is where a real sneaker can crawl along the rail into camp, ask them for a diversion” – Pinko

Williams shakes off his assumption that the camp ought to be attacked and sends Harding. Using moon-shadow, Harding creeps along the rail embankment and gets within soft hail of the camp. There’s a very tense moment since Harding leads with a “Section C here” and the Baluchi sentry does not offer a watch-word. But then Harding calls “Sheik of Araby” and is given the correct counter and all is well.

The Baluchi’s naik rousts out Lt. Barnet who lays on an impressive distraction, since Harding can point to bits of jungle where the detachments are sited. The Vickers plays its deadly fire along the brush.

Section C ‘slowly hustles’ forward, also using the embankment for as much cover as possible. And gain safety!

Those who lost hp recover at the normal hp/day rate after an initial cup of char has restored 6hp.

Those with subdual damage from exhaustion recover that at the same rate but separately.

Williams Pinko and Cade move to L3. Williams takes SMG proficiency and after some debate as to merits (very good to have that at table) Cade takes rifle proficiency. Pinko takes Wpn Focus – Bren.

 

Back at Prome’s defensive zone Slim is in charge now

All safe and sound then pet, barring a few scratches and lost gear. I had to tell Ward off though, the silly sod scraped a leech off with his bayonet and no surprise, it’s septic now. I did show them how you burn them off with a fag, but there’s no telling some people.

It turns out that Section B did suffer casualties but only a few. Section A/Vickers made it back safely. All things considered we were all lucky. Our gear and particulars have been replaced, back to wearing in a new blanket. 

Meanwhile life returns more towards normal here. The buzz is all over where the RAF has gone (air raids on the town and ferries every second day for breakfast!) and about desertions among 1st Burma. 

The regiment got a visit from our Corps’ new commander, Lt-Genl Slim. Even I can follow the plan as he explains it. It’s to pull back across the Irrawaddy and eventually to India, through Ava to Assam, and make sure we don’t ditch refugees.

But just now I did see Corp head into the information tent, and I called after him ‘never volunteer’ but I dare say he won’t have a choice so signing off for now…

 

Historical note

Small-scale commando raids made the hard-hit 17th Divn feel better, but in terms of strategy, Japanese airpower was at its zenith, driving the obsolete allied aircraft from the skies. In turn that allowed river and road attacks with impunity, and (as Pinko has implied) bombing raids over Prome that turned the once-pleasant town into a ruin.

Circumstances of command would eventually allow Slim to achieve parts of what he wanted – which was to concentrate, ready a counter and attack – but at this juncture both Toungoo (where the Chinese divisions were based) and Prome needed to be covered. Leaving the allies vulnerable to the next major Japanese attack! 

 

 

 

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BS1.05: Rearguard action!

 

The characters for this session:

Cpl Bryn Williams, armed with Lee-Enfield

LCpl Pinko McLean, armed with Bren gun

Ptes Cade and Harding, armed with Tommy gun

The rest of C Section:

Paddy and Lou, the Bren section

Pte Staples, Jimbo Ward and White, all armed with Lee-Enfield

 

Away north in comfort on the Garnet

Here we are on the Garnet again pet and right glad to find it moored where Lt. Barnet said it ought. We may have given Tojo and the Burmans a good dusting, but that do not mean there’s no more nips looking to stick us like practice targets.

I help the Vickers set up on bow, then settle back with the lads for a quiet fag or two. Someone with binoculars says as how the Irrawaddy is about one and a half miles wide, but so long as the boat stays away from the banks it’s time for a kip.

[No rolls are called for as far as I can recall. The Garnet chugs unreliably north.]

 

Garnet adrift – disembark west!

Well that was a turn-up, one minute I’m admiring dawn across the river and the next I’m down with Staples and young Jimbo, pushing on a ruddy iron bar at the say-so of a gunga din downstairs in the boiler room!

The Garnet doesn’t last the journey pet, and with a bit of a steamy signal saying ‘here we are’ to all the nips on both banks, drifts back west and off we hop. I’m not sure what help we were, something to do with the ruddy rudder I suppose.

[No roll required, Pinko strips down a bit and heads down to help when the engine stops, since he has the heavy machinery skill. Williams directs Staples and Jimbo to go with him. Then directs the others down but it’s far too crowded! The three heave on the rudder bar manually and this allows the Garnet to nose in to the bank rather than randomly wallowing. Cade collects Pinko’s gear as word is given to evacuate.]

 

Where to go?

Here I am tucked down in a scrape sighting in the Bren, waiting for the lead sections to head off. The jungle is right up to the bank so after we wade over in mucky silt I set up right away. Cade and Harding headed west trail-blazing. Opposite, some nip gunners spotted the Garnet and might get their eye in any day now.

“We’ll see if we can blaze a trail west, have a look for a trail” – Harding

“Aye literally trail-blaze – machete everything and don’t get lost” – Pinko

C Section is now rearguard, except Cade and Harding take the initiative to find a north-south trail. Barnet and Williams begin to be a little adrift of events.

 

A trail north beckons

Cade and Harding are back smartly, they find a Timber Company trail big enough to take elephants. Barnet has A and B sections away west, along with the Garnet crew, and after he looks at Corp’s guide book, tells Corp to keep an eye east in case the nips decide to cross. Cade and Harding come back from playing guides, by which time Corp has seen enough. But Barnet scarpers telling him to wait half an hour to make sure:

“Now, we’re about 20 or so miles from the settlement… Nugseye let’s call it… where there ought to be a ferry. Best case, we repair the Garnet but worst case, the Japs cross and we have to walk north ahead of a pursuit. So your orders are to man the area around the boat, keep an eye east, until you are sure what the Japs have decided to do. Wait at most… oh, half an hour. Then march west to the trail, march north to find me, and report.”

As soon as Barnet has headed west to catch A and B, Corp orders all of us save Staples and Harding to walk quietly west after Barnet. Sensible for a Taffy is Corp, even with all the book learning he’s got stuffed in his head.

I think this is down to misunderstanding his orders, not intentionally disobeying them, and if I recorded Barnet’s orders right there was some wiggle room. Whatever the case, Williams is satisfied in his own mind he doesn’t need an entire section to decide whether the Japanese are actually crossing, and has most of us away to the trail.

 

Away, or not, no away

Then there’s a wee comedy as Harding soon reports he’ spotted Tojo boarding a riverboat in maybe platoon strength and is sent back ‘for a second look’ and comes back again with the same. Harding is wet through with sweat and it’s no hardly morning yet.

Then we catch up! Me Paddy and Lou are rearguard and after a few minutes I hear away north ‘who goes there? It’s me you bloody fool!’ but no shooting. The nip mountain gun is still popping away and I don’t fancy the Garnet’s chances.

[Cade is sole point man and there’s a fail as B section’s rearguard spots him and does not have a password, and nor does Cade!]

Barnet issues us all new orders, we will be marching north – there’s fun, in the daytime – and we have a proper watchword and counter for the whole platoon. C Section is rearguard as we should be, we are the best. And I’m rearguard of the rearguard, so here I am in another wee scrape catching you up.

[The watchword is “Sheik of Araby” and the counter is “World belongs to me”]

 

Blowing down a big old tree

Next thing, I hear Cade musing about his still having his demolitions kit and my blood runs cold as Corp takes him up on it. ‘Away south of us, south’ I wave them, since it’s a fool’s errand and no sense any of us getting caught by it.

Harding has a bit of wilderness lore and finds a good big tree. I have no idea why “we drop a tree across the trail” is supposed to be worth more than a snort of derision but that is the plan. Cade successfully blasts the tree and it does fall more or less as desired. Seemingly happy Williams pulls out, rather than setting an envelopment ambush – numbers are far too small for that to be safe.

 

Watering at the resentful village

We march north up the trail, which is not a Sunday promenade you may be sure. Ward starts some nonsense up about Burma pythons and I joke about the python we Scots have under the kilt, to blow away the grue Ward loves to create. This is all in daytime now, getting warm. We cross a fine sturdy timber bridge over another chaung and I can see Corp kicking himself, but too late. Still if Barnet was worth the price of his fancy bourgeois school he would have left a squad back at the bridge to blow it proper.

The next hour’s march has us to a Burman village and with grinning apes calling ‘British soldier run run fast’ we top our canteens up and head on. I smack five rupees down on the bar top (the well wall) since they are oppressed peasantry and don’t know they are about to be oppressed a hell of a lot more.

Williams is not paranoid and orders all canteens handed in for filling. I decline and wait until Harding has actually sampled the water before having mine filled. Williams does go over the rules of engagement though, which is good. No need for a massacre.

 

A clearing with pagoda

As we shake out to our column of march Corp stays back with me. He must suspect we lost too much time playing with the tree and water but doesn’t say aught. Then about noon, word comes back that Staples and Cade (them two being scouts) have found a clearing.

I’d say Harding still think’s he a schoolboy, the grin on his face as he finally gets up the Pagoda in the clearing I can see from where I am in the tree-line. I’ve said to Corp, maybe a rifle up top of pagoda would be good. Harding and his telescope are elected.

“If there’s a yellow bint there demanding money to come in, come straight back” – Pinko

But we spend a hell of a long time waiting then Harding comes back and says he can’t see past the trees anyhow.

 

Setting up for trouble

We move on through following an old path across rice paddies. The rice is waving tall and green, good cover. Corp asks my opinion of where we should hold, since according to his ears Tojo seems to be getting closer [Williams makes a good Notice check] and I like the look of the pagoda mound for a Tommy gun attack and me in support behind a bund a bit further back. Rifles in the far trees of course.

This is basically a clearing with one piece of dead ground, the pagoda on a mound, and some cover afforded by bunds cutting across the clearing. Rifles in the trees on the opposite side to the Japanese entry is the obvious ambush – bearing in mind the Japanese have enough men to also flank around – but the Tommy guns, needing short range, can be used from the dead ground of the mound. I figure that the Japanese will be drawn to the mound since it is cover and will then walk into a beaten zone as they round it. Then behind that and off at a bund-roadside position the Bren can cover the Tommy gun retreat, chop down any troops outflanking the mound, and also cover the road. Both Bren and Tommy guns are a road-dash from the trees, or two paddy field moves.

Then once me Paddy and Lou are comfy we watch Harding and Cade jitter around behind the pagoda. Nerves are the enemy more than the nips at this stage. But all’s well, neither looses off so Tojo gets a nasty surprise once he gets to the pagoda. Then we give him what-for and scarper.

Combat

Preliminaries: A small Japanese detachment, well spread out, advances on the British right, while a slightly larger number advance on the left, again well spread out. Finally a pair of Japanese run up the mound into cover at the pagoda.

Surprise round: Cade and Harding pitch grenades the length of the pagoda, accurately. Cade’s goes off, dropping one of the Japanese pair. Williams orders his rifles to fire on Japanese in cover behind bunds, and White manages a hit.

Initiatives:

  • Cade
  • Japanese (later also Harding and Bren, and later still Cade)
  • Harding
  • Williams+Rifles
  • Bren team

Round 1: Cade delays. An LMG team dashes up the road a partial move and drops to cover, while other Japanese advance to cover, or fire. A small group make the dead ground behind the pagoda. Harding’s grenade goes off dropping the other of the Japanese pair that made it up to the pagoda. He himself delays. Williams commands [20+ on the skill] his rifles to hold fire while he fires, [nat 20!] dropping one. The Bren team delays.

Round 2: Cade delays. The LMG team emerges from cover onto the road for another dash, and both the Bren and Harding rake the team, putting both down. Many more Japanese emerge from the trees opposite the British left. Cade signals this as best he can.

Round 3: Cade delays. The lead Japanese are now in good cover on Cade’s left flank and a mortar team has begun setting up in the far paddy. Harding uses the dead ground to dash back to the Bren team’s bund and dive to cover, while waving the numbers back to Williams. The Bren delays.

Round 4: Cade repeats Harding’s maneuver, the SMGs and Bren are dangerously close as the first mortar round falls! Luckily they target the dead ground behind the pagoda! A second LMG team advances along the road and the Bren opens up again, wounding them. Harding reloads and moves 5’ along the bund to spread out. Now he has an indication of numbers Williams details Staples off to stand and takes the bulk of the rifles left.

Round 5: Cade moves left behind the bund, so that he is covering the open ground left of the pagoda. The Japanese advance, mainly on the left: The Bren cleans up the wounded LMG team. Harding shifts left a little, creating more space between he and the Bren. Williams and rifles open up scoring two hits.

Round 6: As the Japanese in cover behind the pagoda rush forward Cade and Harding open up though scoring wounds only. More Japanese advance on both mound and left and the Bren, Staples and the other rifles all fire, the rifles having most effect. There is no danger of the SMGs being rushed from the mound.

Round 7: The mortar drops a round behind the bund, too far back to threaten the SMGs and Bren. Cade reloads and moves 5’ towards the road while Harding simply dashes to a point adjacent to the road.

“Corp – movement west” – Staples

Williams acknowledges and yells:

“Mandalay!”

The rifles fire, Williams and White scoring hits.

Round 8: Another mortar round drops, this a little closer to the Bren position. Cade pulls back towards the road to where he can take a dash to the trees. Harding pulls back further.

“Lads – I know you want to stay on but – let’s fuck off” – Pinko

The Bren team retreat, Pinko taking a half-move so as to cover backward. Williams rallies the rifles ready to retire.

Round 9: As the Japanese generally advance, Cade, Harding, Paddy and Lou retire on Williams. Pinko shoots from hip and drops the forefront Japanese advancing from the pagoda and pulls back another half-move.

Round 10: Pinko is last off the clearing and the section begins a brisk jog/walk/jog so as to outdistance the flanking force!

Combat ends

 

And next session we test the forced-march rules!

 

Highlights: Joking about the python in character because Pinko does not keep morale/discipline by force. Seeing my plan for the Tommy guns and Bren work OK, and the couple of nat 20s rolled by Williams and White were good to see too. 

For me, a faster start – a CON check and dropping us into the village perhaps – would have played better than a blow by blow account of Barnet getting the platoon off the Garnet and puzzling out what to do. We could probably have done away with the entire first hour (at least) and be better off for it, and have included forced-marching and destination in the one session. Eventually, we all got something to do.

Regarding VfV rules, I’m a little concerned that the effect of exhausting marching and terrifying bombardment have not played any part yet. As a player I don’t want casualties (especially, not my character!) but C Section seems to be immune to dehydration and fear alike. There’s also the ‘hostile jungle’ dimension, which seems strangely absent. This session Harding joined Cade in being able to use the jungle as though it was the Epping Forest. Perhaps the VfV rules need local-theatre tweaks so that in 1942, Brits don’t get to use Wilderness Lore, or receive a -10 for unfamiliarity or something.

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