Codeword Cromwell 1940 part 13 Battle of Rotherfield – Crescendo of Doom at St Deny’s

Posted: January 27, 2015 in rotherfield, wargames

The final German assault begins

The final German assault begins

With Chaplin (Barnstaple) dealt with, the villagers collectively took a deep breath for the coming onslaught. Doctor Greystone and heroic Aussie reporter Fox joined Headmistress Featherlake and Pte Pike in the church while the rest took up position in the grounds. Heavy fire was directed from 3 sides as the Germans began to move in. With no heavy or anti-tank weapons to call on the villagers had to make do with a paltry collection of a couple of shotguns, a Webley revolver, Lanchester smg and Thorncrofts antique blunderbuss. But what they lacked for in firepower, they more than made up for in liquid courage. Sgt Wilson led the way, wiping out an assault by the 5th Jägers on his position. His Lanchester glowing red from continual use. Capt Mainwaring and the 4 remaining members of the cricket team clung on desperately to the south of Wilsons position but the firepower of the Panzer IV shelling them proved too much, eventually one round found it mark killing all the cricketers and wounding Mainwaring. But the position remained in British hands…….just. Next the Germans tried attacking Rotherfield Stores with 60+ troops from opposite sides of the shop. Despite brave resistance the handful of Women’s Institute members and the surviving American regulars could not contend with the sheer weight of numbers amassed against them and after a few minutes the desperate singing of “Jerusalem” ended.

Meanwhile to the North West, Earl Thorncroft still engaged the Panzer III shelling his position. Despite being in full view of its 3.7cm gun and machine guns, not one hit registered, leaving many to comment on his charmed life and whether he had entered into a not so Christian pact when he had been stationed in Ceylon. Only one route remained open to the church for the Germans now. If the villagers could hold them off, victory would be theirs. And so began the final assault. Doctor Greystone and Drayden Fox armed with shotguns fired at anything that moved through the shattered Burne-Jones window.

St Deny's Burne-Jones window, repaired  after the War.

St Deny’s Burne-Jones window, repaired after the War.

While Featherlake and Pike armed with a handful of empty bottles took up position by the blasted door entrance. As the Germans rushed inside, Featherlake once more entered into violent hand to hand combat. Fox provided what covering fire he could although Featherlake took a bayonet wound to her ribs. Blood pouring from her gown she fought on unrelenting screaming in a banshee like wail “My teachers…….my sweet sweet teachers”. Then almost as suddenly as it had begun and at the very moment that the defenders looked about to be overwhelmed, the Germans began to retreat as they lost heart. About 30 minutes later the American reinforcements that had been promised after Fox’s radio message earlier began to arrive in their Willy’s jeeps.

Rotherfield after the fighting. Taken from Bank House the Home Guard HQ looking toward Rotherfield Stores

Rotherfield after the fighting. Taken from Bank House the Home Guard HQ looking toward Rotherfield Stores, with Kings Arms pub in foreground.

They were greeted by just 9 survivors who had participated in the battle. Capt Mainwaring (inj), Sgt Wilson (inj), Cpl Jones (inj), Pte’s Godfrey & Pike (both inj), Lord Thorncroft (inj), Doctor Greystone, Ms Featherlake (inj) & the redoubtable Drayden Fox.

Went_the_Day_Well_PosterNext day, Fox penned  “The village that would not die” eventually making its way to the silver screen as Ealing Studio’s ” Went the Day Well?” Closely followed by Remembrance Anthem “The Great Seal” (see link below) placing firmly Rotherfield into British folklore.


Post game student assessment – British Tactical Victory – Score +109, Grade (C) – Average, student displayed acceptable leadership and tactical skills for the module. 

  1. Tara Blackwell says:

    C- could do better! Have enjoyed reading your escapades on this gaming journey! 😉 xxxxx

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