Saturday, 16 February 2013

VBCW: The Second Battle of Ledbury (1938)

Today I attended another 1938 Very British Civil War Big Game, hosted by the excellent chaps Giles and JP. This was the second such event, and the Battle Report of the previous one can be found here.

Here a battle report and a pile of photos of some really nice armies. I had a great time, and it was great to see everyone- some new faces and some old friends. 

BUF Cavalry advance supported by South African Royalists

Ledbury, in Herefordshire has been a thorn in the side of the government forces since their aborted attack on it- the so-called Battle of Ledbury (hence forth known as the First Battle of Ledbury). The Government has determined that retaking the town was a high priority in order to increase stability in the county.

BUF heavy tank waiting to advance at the spearhead of the Government attack
On the morning of the battle the force of the Government forces drew up, ready to attack the Anglican held town. The attack was to commence on two fronts, with the first being carried out by a large force of highly mobile mounted cavalry troops, supported by artillery, two tanks and a number of motorised infantry in trucks. A significant force of seasoned South African colonial troops added backbone to the assault. 

A royalist standard bearer leading the Royalist forces into battle.
  They were attacking against a portion of the town held by Anglican League troops, supported by Socialist Militia from Birmingham (that's me!). The Anglicans had an antiquated Great War era tank, and an armoured truck, while the Socialists had a pair of Trachanka armoured cars.

  In addition, the Government forces were attacking on a second front, sending a strong force of British Union of Fascist troops, and Royalist Army troops against a section of the town sparsely defended by an Anglican Force.

Socialist convoy ready to seize the initiative. Poor planning and supply problems hamper the advance.
The attack began badly for the Anglicans and Socialists; The Government forces seemed to have solid information about their battle plans, while poor communication and misunderstandings hampered their own deployment. Added to this chronic supply problems, and the Socialists found themselves struggling from the outset. When the Platoon Sergeant’s car ran out of petrol blocking an important bridge, it through the Socialist Battle plan into disarray as troops attempted to carry out their battle plans without much hope of success.

Government cavalry advance rapidly through the farmland around Ledbury
The Government forces cavalry deployed rapidly across the fields, crossing with ease terrain that would have hampered vehicles and infantry. Luckily for the Anglicans the Government artillery was less effective, being hampered by poor deployment.

Poor deployment makes the Royalist artillery less effective that it might have been. 
The BUF tanks struggled to breach the hedgerows and ford the river, but when they eventually did there was little the Anglicans and Royalist could do against it, as their own guns were ineffective against the enemy armour. At this point the Socialist withdrew in good order to a line of prepared defences and trenches, and awaited the Government attack.

Another experimental weapons- Cavalrymen using anti-tank lances.

Government casualties would almost certainly have been high, if at that moment news had not reached the Anglicans and Socialists that the battle for Ledbury was over.  The Anglican forces on the other front had crumbled before the onslaught of the BUF and Royalist. The forces of the Government were pouring into the town through the breach, and the defenders had effectively been encircled! 

Strange locals dressed as scarecrows waylay the BUF- Quite why, no one was sure!
The Socialist commanding officer was Professor Winters, a History scholar who studied medieval warfare. Knowing that his forces were trapped, Professor Winters decided that he had to try to break out and leave the Anglicans to their fate. He ordered his troops to gather in one place, abandon their vehicles and make their way on foot across the fields. The trachankas were to provide a rear-guard as far as the river.

BUF heavy cavalry and a force of South African Regulars blocked the Socialists path. Professor Winters saw an opportunity to test a theory he had been harbouring for some time: How bayonet armed man can emulate late medieval pike men to defeat cavalry. Ordering his troops to fix bayonets and leave the safety of their entrenched positions, he had them race towards the Government lines. The BUF cavalry responded by eagerly charging into the Socialist, cutting a bloody swathe through their ranks. Initially it looked bleak for the socialists, but as the Professor ordered more men into the melee, the socialist numbers began to tell, and the cavalrymen began to fall one by one. 

The platoon sergeant leads the Socialist in a valiant- if fruitless charge.
At this point the South Africans, witnessing what looked like a giant rugby scrum, couldn't resist getting stuck in, and charged into the melee. Despite their best efforts, the fight started to turn in favour of the Socialists, even though there were heavy casualties on both sides. It looked like Professor Winters’ theory might prove vindicated, and that the socialists might manage to break out of the encirclement, but then disaster struck: A large body Government forces arrived from Ledbury, completing the trap.

BUF cavalry cut down the first wave of Socialists desperately trying to break out.

Professor Winters managed to escape by hiding under a bridge until the Government forces had moved off, but his entire force was captured or killed by the Government forces. The Commissars of the Birmingham Socialist Collective have arrested the professor. He had been stripped of his command and faces a trail for incompetence and desertion. Ledbury itself fell, and the Anglicans were in Herefordshire were dealt a stinging defeat. 


Jay said...

Fun! I applaud the ancient use of the "Scarecrow" tactic!

JP said...

Great report and photos mate.thanks for coming along!

Phil said...

Great pictures here! I really enjoy your atmosphere, great work!

tradgardmastare said...

Absolutely spiffing photos and game too I wager.

Smillie said...

Looks like a top game sir!

Simon Quinton said...

Great looking game, terrain and figures are awesome.