Archive for the ‘rotherfield’ Category


“Are you mad? the alliance…..”

I’m aware that the majority of my recent posts have been somewhat heavy on the wargames front so after a 3 month hiatus, just like London buses here’s the second of today’s musings and something completely different. Having booked in for an “Everything English” supper club evening at Rotherfield’s rather splendid Courtyard Café (http://www.thecourtyardrotherfield.co.uk/index.html) to celebrate St George’s day I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later I’d be asked to don the old 30 kilo’s (4 & 3/4 stones) of metal beautificence (my 15 year old armour from http://www.whiterosearmoury.com) to add a touch of flavour to the event and to be honest I’ve always wanted to see if eating and drinking in full harness could be done. Well the answer is YES although wearing it for 7 hours has resulted in two walnut sized lumps on my collar bones. Still it was worth it especially as one managed to enjoy a few glasses of one of ones favourite white wines, none other than the award winning Horsmonden dry from Davenport Vineyards. http://www.davenportvineyards.co.uk/

Dum vivimus, vivamus

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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.

29929285-the-glorious-dead-inscription-on-the-cenotaph-war-memorial-in-london

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


IMG_3382 (800x600)As night fell, the attacking forces knew that failure to capture the village before dawn would be a huge set back to their invasion plans potentially allowing the British to counter-attack from a position of strength. Mustering for a final concerted all-out effort, nearly 200 troops from 4 Regiments, with armour support from the 18 Leichte Panzer Regt and a Panzer IV Ausf. D from Schwere Panzer Abteilung 4 commenced their assault.

Panzer IV Ausf. D advancing toward Horsegrove Lane prior to entering the village.

Panzer IV Ausf. D advancing toward Horsegrove Lane.

All that stood in their way was motley crew of defenders, Earl Thorncroft, Headmistress Ms Featherlake, Reverend Barnstaple, journalist Drayden Fox, Doctor Greystone, Captain Mainwaring, Sgt Wilson (wounded) Cpl Jones (wounded) and Pte Pike (wounded) in/around the church with a wounded Pte Godfrey unable to reach them. Rotherfield Stores was also still defended by a handful of the Women’s Institute Amazon Shooting Club and a shot up squad of green American regulars who had arrived before Tunbridge Wells fell.

It was at this moment that dastardly fifth column agent “Chaplin” chose to reveal himself. As the Germans commenced their attack suddenly from behind the pulpit, none other than trusted village vicar the Reverend Barnstaple removed a concealed German Mauser pistol from under his vestments and opened fire on the church Featherlake and Pike.

TRAITOR - Agent Chaplin none other the Reverend Mortimer Barnstaple

TRAITOR – Agent Chaplin, The Reverend Mortimer Barnstaple

Only these 2 had managed to get into the church as Barnstaple had locked the door minutes before. A bitter life or death struggle ensued, when suddenly the Burne-Jones window shattered as a shell from an advancing German tank exploded outside. The vicar, distracted for a few seconds with tears running down his cheek and shouting hysterically “Oh the humanity” failed to notice Featherlake launching a hymn book towards him.  The book struck him squarely in the chest. Knocked off balance he slipped, cracking the back of his head on the shards of broken glass. His body immediately went limp. Agent Chaplin the Reverend Mortimer Barnstaple was dead.  Only after the fighting was the true nature of his treachery uncovered when an inventory of equipment was checked which showed that all the anti-tank weapons had been removed from the crypt (later discovered in a pig pen in Bletchinglye lane).  Also Pike’s Thompson smg and the Bren gun were both discovered to have been sabotaged and rendered useless if anyone had attempted to use them. So ended Barnstaple’s treachery but the battle for the church was far from over.  The final instalment tomorrow.


IMG_3381 (800x600)2000hrs – As spearhead units from 18th Leichte Panzer Regt began to arrive, the defenders realised that they had no anti-tank weapons available.  Capt Mainwaring announced Plan “Charlie” was to be implemented immediately ordering his surviving Home Guard troops to retreat back to the church perimeter in a “collapsing bag” style defence. When told of the arrival of German tanks, Pte Pike was reported to have uttered “What the hell are we supposed to use, harsh language?” His outburst resulting in him being put on a charge on the spot for insubordination.

A Panzer III ausf F with infantry support advancing on the church

A Panzer III ausf F with infantry support advancing on the church

Seeing the courage of the troops around him waver, The Manor House’s Lord Thorncroft displaying skills learned as a former Officer in the Royal Sussex Regt and armed with the very same blunderbuss he had used to kill a tiger during a hunting party in Ceylon in 1927 engaged the armour approaching the church from the West single handedly. Although unable to disable it, he managed to halt its advance. As the net closed in the fighting became more desperate with casualties being inflicted on both sides.

Tactical situation map discovered in the church after the fighting had stopped

Tactical situation map reflecting the moment of the arrival of German armour from the West and just before the Paratroops captured the south western corner of the church grounds. Discovered in the church after the fighting had stopped.

In the South West corner, the last remaining troops from the East Kents were eliminated as Paratroops from the bank entered the church grounds. Mechanic James Arnold and chief Chaplin suspect Arthur Pendrake were also killed in the waning hours of sunlight.

St Deny's church from the exact position in the south-west reached by German troops before nightfall.

St Deny’s church from the exact position in the south-west reached by German troops before nightfall.

Now the villagers braced themselves for the final attack.


Taken seconds after the Germans entered SW Motor's garage, Featherlake detonated the hidden fougasse mine.  Foreground Sgt Wilson surveys the carnage

Taken seconds after the Germans entered SW Motor’s garage, Featherlake detonated the hidden fougasse mine. Foreground Sgt Wilson runs past one of the burning cars, the garage completely gone

1900hrs – As the unmistakeable sound of armoured tracks approached the village, remnants of the East Kent’s launched a final desperate counter attack holding the German tanks and infantry reinforcements at bay for a vital hour  before being swept away. It was just the respite needed by the villagers to regroup. IMG_3589 (800x600)First, as advance units of the 5th Jäger regt. entered the seemingly deserted SW Motors garage, head teacher Featherlake detonated the fougasse mine she and Arnold had planted earlier.  2 squads of German infantry immediately vanished, in a nightmare scene reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno as they were engulfed in flame and collapsing masonry. The teachers had been avenged.

To paraphrase Hippocrates, “Desperate times calls for desperate measures” and when Antipodean Journo Drayden Fox (who had steadfastly refused to use a weapon) stood up in the Rotherfield Stores shop and uttered his immortal words “Bollocks to this mate” the wounded of the Women’s Institute thought he was about to run away.  Not so, armed with just his trusty typewriter and a handful of 2hb staedtler pencils he charged towards the German held positions outside the pub.

Drayden Fox's Remington - Before use as a weapon against the enemy

Drayden Fox’s Remington – Before use as a weapon against the enemy

A tirade of colourful colonial language ringing in their ears, the German troops were routed as Fox put his trusty Remington to a use never originally conceived of. He had also opened an escape route for Pendrake and Tanner who had been cut off in the Kings Arms pub. Tragically,  Landlady Tanner was hit in the head by a snipers bullet in shortly after. The status of Chaplin suspect Bank Manager Pendrake remained unknown.

The scene of Fox's heroics. Taken from Rotherfield Stores, this street was single handedly cleared of Germans by the typewriter equipped reporter.

The scene of Fox’s heroics. Taken from Rotherfield Stores, this street was single handedly cleared of Germans by the typewriter equipped reporter.

For this selfless act of bravery Fox would be awarded the George Cross.

Spurred on by this courageous act, Pte Godfrey and the surviving cricket team members charged a group of Germans from the 20th PzGren Regt (who were attempting to infiltrate the ruins of the SW Motors garages). With accurate covering fire from Sgt Wilson’s Lanchester smg they inflicted more casualties. Godfrey himself kept on fighting despite being wounded.

At the Police Station, the last remaining G.I.’s defending the roadblock were finally eliminated when the were outflanked although the Germans were slow to exploit the position. The Village just needed to hold out for one more hour.

 


 

A force to be reckoned with - The teachers and breakfast school club combat unit sadly no more

A force to be reckoned with – The teachers and breakfast school club combat unit, sadly no more

1800hrs – With news that Otto Skorzeny’s commando’s had captured the Royal family morale took a blow, but the British bulldog spirit refused to give in. Headmistress Featherlake and Daisy Woods patched up their differences for the common good and returned to the action. In the nick of time as Jones had succumbed to his wounds defending the High st. German troops engaged now numbered over 150 and inevitably their superior firepower was beginning to tell. First the familiar reassuring sound of the Vickers mg fell silent as the Sussex Hunt were finally eliminated as an effective combat force. Then tragically the teachers and breakfast school club of Rotherfield Primary school who had been fighting a truly epic battle in the ruins of the cricket pavilion were overrun and wiped out, but not before inflicting grievous casualties on the enemy. The situation was beginning to look hopeless. More desperate news followed as first the farm hands defending the school were annihilated, then the 2 lovers Reynolds and Woods fighting on different sides of the village were both killed fighting to the last. Wood’s final words to Reynolds “I’m not scared of dying, all I’m scared of is living without you” would never come to pass.

SCENES OF SACRIFICE Left – Rotherfield Primary School where the farm hands met their doom, Right – High St, Reynolds’ body discovered at the bus stop just behind the telegraph pole

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The arrival of the 20th Panzer Grenadier Regt

The arrival of the 20th Panzer Grenadier Regt

1400hrs – With less than 6 hours of daylight left, news reached Rotherfield that Churchill had released the Home Fleet to attempt to disrupt the South Coast landings. Cheery news indeed as German troops began to make headway towards the church capturing the Copper Kettle newsagents, and the Bank and cutting off the Sussex Hunt in the process. Unconfirmed reports of an incident in the Kings Arms between landlady Betty Tanner and Bank Manager Arthur Pendrake over a refused loan added further names to the potential list of Chaplin agent suspects.  Pendrake’s status escalated from a “Person of Interest” to the highest threat level STATUS 18b (alongside Daisy Woods). Not much later St Deny’s very own vicar Mortimer Barnstaple also joined the list of Status 18b suspects after it was reported that he was suggesting perhaps too strongly that the time to surrender had come. The defenders were finding their defences stretched to the limit as Sgt Wilson joined the list of wounded thanks to his heroics stopping the German advance from the school drive. A squad of East Kents were also wiped out on Church Lane.

Heavy fighting continued in the Cricket pavilion (now utterly ruined) with the Teachers acting as bait for the Germans and allowing the Breakfast Club staff to outflank them by bursting out of the toilets using their shotguns to full effect in point blank combat. Casualties were mounting however as just a handful of their number remained uninjured. The Germans keenly aware of the strategic importance of the pavilion rushed in elements of 3 regts including the newly arrived 20th Panzer Grenadier Regt. Nearly 50 Germans were now involved in combat, outnumbering their desperate defenders by about 8:1.

Rotherfield Cemetery - German troops advanced through here unopposed

Rotherfield Cemetery – German troops advanced through here unopposed

More Germans began to inilftrate through the cemetery towards Bletchinglye Lane. In the South, the Germans were once more repulsed in Hornshurst Woods and around the bank thanks to the efforts of the Sussex Hunt who despite being cut off were still laying down a withering fire from their Vickers mg. More success was achieved outside the school as a German attack was defeated in detail by the Farm Hands now equipped with a mixture of shotguns, mills bombs and pitchforks.

The High Street from the German end. Jones and Pike defending from the upper window of the house on the left in the distance.

The High Street from the German end. Jones and Pike defending from the upper window of the house on the left in the distance.

Then a large mixed force of 25+ Germans began to build up on the East side of the High St. defended by Home Guard volunteers Cpl Jones & Pte Pike.  At this critical juncture, Australian correspondent Drayden Fox managed to reach U.S. journalist Ed Murrow over the Rotherfield Stores shop telephone. With machine gun fire clearly audible in the background the bulletin aired live in the US causing a huge sympathetic reaction amongst its listeners. More American reinforcements were promised and despatched post haste from their base in Tunbridge Wells.