Friday, 16 February 2018

The Battle of the Plough Inn

Opened in late the 1800s Pelton Station represents a significant line of communication East West across County Durham.  The station is actually situated in Pelton Fell, and if I seem a bit of an expert its because I grew up in the Station Master's Cottage there.

For our VBCW campaign it was time for the Chester Le Street Old Pals to follow up their toffee factory victory and make an attack on my Communist Miners, along the road from Pelaw bank.  Given that the Railway station has the alternate name of South Pelaw Station, and the the road passes the Plough Inn at this point, it seems a natural place to set a Chain of Command game. 

The terrain in this area has some interesting features.  What appear to be hedge rows and field boundaries on the map are, on closer inspection, parallel to chest deep drainage and irrigation ditches.  They are extremely muddy and difficult to climb out of, something I know well, having fallen into one on a trip back from the Plough Inn during the 1970s. 

Historians will appreciate the fact that the Plough Inn was the place that, as schoolboys, the Committee members of the Marshal Petain Gentlemen's club learned to drink...

The ditches were also polluted with by-products from the coke works... The ground itself is soft, even during a dry summer, and in terms of crops these are generally either potato fields or fallow.

The branch line runs along a very steep embankment that divides this rural countryside from the Stella Gill Coke works and leads to Pelton Railway Station just off the western side of the map.  The ground ascends to the 200ft level towards the north eastern side of the map, and the embankment is at 30 feet towards the western edge rising across the table as it approaches the station.
The coke works can be seen in the background in the lower picture

The battlefield was been tweaked slightly and looks like this:

So the Communists have once again faced off against their old foes, the Chester Le Street Old Pals Platoon.  At stake was the Plough Inn, a location used as an arms cache for the Communists, as well as the Committee dominos and darts tournament venue.

The Communists used four patrol markers and jump Off points, slowing their deployment, the Pals three. 

For support the Communists used seven points to recruit the armoured bulldozer of Elder Miliband, and an additional section, and anticipating the Pals tanks they also recruited a satchel charge armed demolition team.  The Pals would field additional sections, and a Lewis gun...

Having grown up less than a hundred yards from this battlefield I was all too well aware of some of its pitfalls.  The hedge rows were counted as light cover, since they were as much a problem for defenders as attackers

The Communists deployment from their jump off points was aggressive, but then again these are aggressive troops.  I wanted to show the enemy a defensive line, to see which way he would flank me.  Not wise perhaps but that`s just me. 
It always seemed likely that the flank attack would come through the farm buildings, straight at the Plough inn, which was the objective.  To that end I deployed Arthur, my Senior Leader with a team into the orchard, and brought on the Armoured Bulldozer onto the road behind that.  To my surprise the attack came from the railway embankment on the other flank...
I had been expecting a very messy fight through the farm, but the aggressive Communists would have been be at an advantage there.  It looked like I would be in a shooting war...
The Bulldozer turns up

Scargill and Blaire line the hedgerows

Arthur Wedgewood Benn in the orchard

The Pals roll a Royal Catchpole, the perfect dice score.

The Pals make good use of terrain.  These guys stare out Arthur's section for the entire game

And here they come, on the right, along the railway embankment

Mayor Blaire and the Pelton Shopkeepers Sunday morning team, in football kit, seek cover in the hedgerows

With the footballers taking casualties I divert the Bulldozer into the open fields in a mad charge.  Elder Miliband as it's commander doesn't even pause to fire...

And on they come down the right

End of turn and an event.  One of Arthur's miners knocks out his pipe onto the straw.  The barn begins to burn.  Fried chicken anyone?

My Gran makes her appearance.  She leads her ladies in a shooting match.  The advancing pals Junior Leader is immediately hit

Farmer Johnson appears, and does some shouting about his chickens

Gran shoots again.  Eight hits.  The Junior leader is hit again.  The Pals begin to lose men.

I deploy the Commuist Committee as my second Senior leader.  They inspire Gordon Brown's section to advance at the double for... all of three inches...

On my next phase I bit the bullet, and spent one of my Chain of command dice on two extra dice for that roll.  My reasoning was that this was the vital part of the game.  With the luck of Vectron I rolled two sixes to retain the turn, giving me a chance to get my fire and movement going.

Miliband the Elder charges the enemy. It is a terrifying moment for that poor wounded Junior leader.
In future games using "the Bulldozing Beast" I may argue that it gives off a cloud of smoke from its engine cowling when moving, just for the look of it...

The Committee finally come to grips with the reinforcing team, but go tactical rather than charging into contact.

Pretty much game over as it's Pub o`clock and the objective is out of reach.  The Communists hold the ground, with their leader not moving 8 inches from the door of the pub for the entire game.

Looking at the game in retrospect my best performing team was once again Gran and the Factory girls.  They put down a withering fire, and laid the ground for Miliband and the bulldozer to close.  In point of fact it was she who saved Mayor Blaire and allowed the Committee to sort themselves out...  

What a great game.  So close, and in campaign terms I simply held out. After the defeat at the toffee factory the score is even between the Miners and the Pals Platoon.  Doesn't get better than this one!

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