The Battle of Keynsham Hams
The interrogation of the prisoners from the Battle of Hanging Hill over a few pints of Bishop's Old Peculiar in the Brassmill public house in Keynsham had yielded some useful information. The troopers of the 2nd Staple Hill Battalion knew little of the forthcoming operations aimed at Somerset and beyond, but they did know that they were to be deployed in the next day or two to Longwell Green, across the river from Keynsham.
With this HUMINT to hand, the Loyal Army of the South quickly deployed two companies of the Wansdyke 5th Peoples Flying Column to the outskirts of Keynsham. Here they dug-in, covering the approaches to the only road bridge over the river Avon between Bath and Bristol. One company was held in reserve, along with a troop ot T-26 tanks and the by now famous 'Wagger' Thorntons Imperial Light Horse.
You didn't need to be one of those new fangled rocket scientists to realise that this bridge was strategically important to both sides. For the LAotS, their forces were too few to risk deploying in strength in one location; for the Army of the Severn Valley on the other hand, they could afford to commit superior numbers to the attack to try and gain control of the bridge and a vital route into Somerset.
I had intended to create quite a detailed scenario, background forces etc for the game, but the best laid plans and all that were somewhat kaiboshed by a rather hectic week at work. So in the end Craig who was to be my opponent made the good suggestion of playing it very much by ear and just put together some forces that felt about right. Wise words indeed. So I used the standard River Assault scenario from the rulebook as a guide and then quickly selected forces that seemed about right for the type of battle I had planned.
The Loyal Army of the South consisted of:
- Wansdyke 5th Peoples Flying Column under the command of Major Stanton Drew and Captain Whitley Batts. The reserve force was commanded by Lieutenant-Commissar Norton Malreward and 'Wagger' Thornton and his Imperial Light Horse.
The Army of the Severn Valley consisted of:
- 2nd Battalion Staple Hill Division of the Gloucestershire Royal Auxilliary Police under the command of Major 'Weirdly' Strangeways and Captain 'Dodgy' Crookenden.
- Kingswood Fascist Committee under the command of Colonel Saunders, Major Reilly-Ffoul and Captain H P Flashman.
- 1st Sturmkompanie of the Kings German Legion attached to the KFC.
- Two tank companies of the Agrupacion de Carros of the 2nd CCNN Division 'Fiamme Nere' attached to the KFC.
- Air support from the Regia Aeronautica and the Condor Legion.
Take your Places Please
The table was a standard 6'x4' and represented the actual area in and around Keynsham that the battle was to be fought over. I used my 1920s OS map as reference for what existed there at that time coupled with my knowldege of the area as I have walked along the river many times.
The outskirts of Keynsham are on the right hand side of the photo. The Brassmill pub can be seen as the building with the red tiled roof. The 5th PFC are dug-in to the right of the bend in the river. Any reserves will enter from the right hand table edge.
The AotSV can be seen deployed on the left hand side of the table, with the KFC forces astride the road and the GRAP towards the bottom of the picture.
The 2nd Battalion Staple Hill Division.
The KFC and attached units.
The two companies of the 5th PFC.
On the right flank, 'Weirdly' Stangeways fails to move out but 'Dodgy' Crookenden gets moving towards the banks of the Avon. Major Reilly-Ffoul also has problems understanding his orders and stays put, but Colonel Saunders moves up on the left flank whilst Captain Flashman advances down the road.
Captain Whitley Batts is a little unnerved by the prospect of action and freezes, by Major Stanton Drew calmly orders his mortar into action suppressing some of Flashman's units on the road.
The advance of some units of the AotSV.
Flashman and his troops come under sustained mortar fire.
The distant drone of aircraft can be heard and an Henschel HS-123 A dives into view, only to be driven off by ack-ack from Stanton Drew and Whitely Batts HQ units.
'Weirdly' Strangeways and 'Dodgy' Crookenden continue their advance towards the banks of the Avon. Major Reilly-Ffoul continues having literacy issues, but Flashman's tanks advance to the barbed wire on the road with poor bloody infantry bringing up the rear. Colonel Saunders troops make good progress on the left flank.
With Whitley Batts still quivering in his boots, it once again falls to Stanton Drew to take the attack to the enemy. This he does rather well with mortar and infantry gun fire destroying one infantry unit and suppressing an mg unit.
The Henschel dive bomber just before it is driven off by ack-ack.
'Dodgy' Crookenden leads the way.
The advance of the AotSV as seen from the Henschel as it returns to base.
The view from the 5th PFC of the advance of Captain Flashman and Colonel Saunders.
Colonel Saunders and attached tankettes advance along the left flank.
Once again the sound of a plane can be heard in the skies towards Bristol. A Caproni CA 135 hoves into view only to be driven off by ack-ack once again!
The GRAP advance somewhat slowly, but every other command unit fails to do anything!
The Caproni bomber taking evasive action from the all too effective ack-ack fire.
'Dodgy' Crookenden and his troops cross the Rubicon that is the Avon, somewhat later than planned. With the lock gates blown, the Avon is fordable right up to Keynsham at low tide. 'Weirdly' Strangeways is still playing catch up.
Finally Major Reilly-Ffoul figures out what he needs to do and starts to move his troops into the attack. However Flashman is somewhat shaken by the recent volume of fire and is unable to issue orders. Fortunately Colonel Saunders carries the attack to the enemy, opening fire on the dug-in troops over the bridge.
The reserves of the LAotS arrive having marched to the sound of gunfire. 'Wagger' Thornton deploys on the right flank oppsoite the threat from Colonel Saunders, whilst Lieutenant-Commissar Norton Malreward reinforces the troops in and around the bridge.
The gunfire from across the river stirs Whitley Batts into action and the ATG unit suppresses the Italian flamethrower tankette. Stanton Drew orders the mortar and infantry gun to open fire on the GRAP as they cross the Avon, killing one unit and suppressing two.
Another view of the AotSV advance from a retreating aeroplane. The centre is slow but the flanks are moving rather well.
The Gloucester Old Spot pigs seem unperturbed by the mortar and infantry gun fire, unlike the GRAP who are less sanguine about the whole thing.
'Wagger' Thorntons timely arrival on the right flank.
The KFC troops begin to cross the Avon.
The GRAP advance begins to stall on the Avon. The open space of Keynsham Hams affords no cover and they are understandable reluctant to move into what is a gauranteed killing ground.
The KFC right and centre under Reilly-Ffoul and Flashman also stalls in its advance. Only Colonel Saunders is really getting stuck into the action, but fire from his troops and tankettes is negated by the trenches of the 5th PFC.
'Wagger' Thorntons troops dismount and fire at the KFC troops crossing the Avon, killing one unit and suppressing another. Norton Malreward orders the T-26 to move onto the bridge where it take up a commanding position from where it will be very hard to dislodge it. Unfortunately the rest of the 5th PFC fail to take the opportunity to inflict damage on the enemy.
Close of play on Turn 5.
The AotSV who has had a relatively ineffective game, once again calls in some artillery support for it only to deviate onto the GRAP troops on the Avon, causing a hit on one unit.
'Dodgey' Crookenden plays a blinder (double 1) and orders his troops to do a classic move-and-fire, but unfortunately for him, a high volume of opportunity fire in return sees one of his units detroyed, the very one hit moments before by its own artillery support! However, he does have the satisfaction of seeing an MG unit of the 5th PFC suppressed by his own troops firing.
The KFC units under Reilly-Ffoul and Flashman continue to move along the road and to re-deploy around the Brassmill pub. Colonel Saunders on the left flank attempts to force the issue by concentrating his firepower on the units on and around the bridge, resulting in the dug-in ATG unit being suppressed.
Things begin to turn the way of the LaoTS as 'Wagger' Thornton and his troops continue to pour finre into the flank of the KFC left, destroying an MG unit and forcing another suppressed unit back into Colonel Saunders, thereby suppressing him. Whitely Batts adds to the woes of the KFC left flank, by firing down the river and finishing off another unit. By now the KFC left flank is no longer looking combat effective.
KFC and German Sturmkompanie troops in action on the Avon.
The GRAP wisely use the Avon to cover their advance.
The T-26 still dominates the bridge.
The high point for the GRAP is the suppression of the MG unit.
The massed ranks fo the GRAP as they prepare to cross the Avon.
The KFC left flank before it is decimated by flank fire.
The KFC advance along the road.
The KFC units of Reilly-Ffoul as they re-deploy.
The after effects of the 5th PFC firepower.
With the centre still too far away, the flanks are withering on the vine.
The GRAP continue to try and move into a position to attack the bridge, but with little effect. Meanwhile the KFC units under Reilly-Ffoul and Flashman blunder or stay stock still. With Colonel Saunders suppressed it it not looking good for the AotSV.
'Wagger' Thornton continues his sterling work with his troops putting pay to another KFC unit. Unfortunately the 5th PFC fail to add to the damage done by 'Wagger' and his men.
Only the troops of 'Weirdly' Strangeways make any real progress, but pay the price for moving onto Keynsham Hams.
It's only one bridge they have to take but already it seems "a bridge too far".
The 2nd Battalion Staple Hill Division moving into no-mans land.
In a now-or-never move, the troops of 'Weirdly' Strangeways move out of the cover of the river to attempt to assault the dug-in troops. They do not get far.
A little too late, the KFC centre and flanks move forward, but with the left flank all but gone, have little hope of carrying the bridge by assault.
'Wagger' Thornton and his troops advance towards the river as they have no targets to shoot at. Whitley Batts and Norton Malreward both fail to order their troops to shoot up the exposed KFC forces. Once again it falls to Stanton Drew to carry the day and a mic of rifle, mg, mortar and infantry gun fire destroy two GRAP units, suppress an MG unit who then moves back and supresses 'Weirdly' Strangeways.
The GRAP stranded in no-mans land.
'Wagger' Thornton and his men move to treaten the KFC left flank.
Colonel Saunders and the remains of his command.
The Italian tankettes and German armoured car behind the Brassmill public house.
KFC and Strumkompanie troops stuck behind the wire.
Captain Flashman and his troops.
Sound the Retreat!
With the left flank gone, the centre stranded and the right flank facing the prospect of advancing over the killing ground of Keynsham Hams, Craig conceded defeat. As always it was a pleasure to play against Craig, even in a quickly cobbled together game. Next time I hope to have things better prepared, work permitting!
So where had it gone wrong for the Army of the Severn Valley? The most obvious thing was the failure of Major Reilly-Ffoul and Major 'Weirdly' Strangeways to get their troops moving in the first few turns. This really hampered Craig's attack plan from the start. With the arrival of 'Wagger' Thornton and his Imperial Light Horse, this definately helped the cause of the Loyal Army of the South. However a couple of turns of very effective shooting by them finished off any threat to the LaoTS right flank.
So now that the bridge at Keynsham is secure for the moment, it will be time to turn my attention to other actions taking place as part of Operation Mangle Wurzel. However it may be a few weeks before I get chance to fight any of these due to work and other gaming commitments.