The characters for this session
Cpl Bryn Williams, armed with Lee-Enfield
LCpl Pinko McLean, armed with Bren gun
Ptes Cade and Harding, armed with Tommy gun
The rest of C Section:
Paddy and Lou, the Bren section
Pte Staples, Jimbo Ward and White, all armed with Lee-Enfield
In the previous session the lads of C Section stand off pursuing Japanese soldiers in a clearing around a small empty pagoda. But the sharp-eared Staples catches sounds to the west so it is time to flee north again! Lt. Barnet has briefed them on their objective: a rail-depot village with storage and a ferry terminal.
We rejoin our heroes as they hit the illusory safety of the jungle path north out of the clearing.
Since this session is about escaping I’m stepping out of Pinko’s brief letters to his missus and writing it in the same style I used with the same GM, as the Surplus Heroes escaped Lewis.
A word about damage
There are three types of damage on show today!
The house rule for gunfire damage is that ‘real’ damage from modern gunfire occurs when hp drop below zero. Until then the effect is moral or as proxy fatigue, forcing a recipient to recoil or drop to cover.
Damage done with bayonet and blade is good old-fashioned D&D 3.0 Rules-As-Written.
Subdual damage is also 3.0 RAW, meaning it works in parallel with hp damage. When subdual damage matches current (not full) hp the character loses consciousness.
The first five minutes at the double
Williams passes Cade and Harding through his riflemen, reminding them of the watchwords and letting them know he expects them to keep scouting.
“Double for five then we’ll see” – Williams, making an adequate Command check
The path is winding, following the terrain, and already gloom-filled. Harding is point and makes an adequate Notice check. Vaulting some minor gullies without difficulty he and Cade hustle forward and at about the 5-minute mark reach a really significant boulder, too high even for Pinko to rest a Bren adequately on. There, they take position aiming west and keep watch. Harding’s Notice check is a 26!
The Bren team arrive next. Pinko braces his Bren on one end of the boulder and checks his off-siders Paddy and Lou, who are tiring.
Finally the rifles arrive, Williams and Staples bringing up the rear.
“Permission to shed gear Corp” – Staples, already ditching his pack
Others follow suit. Cade decides to shed his as well, though he keeps his hip flask; Harding decides to keep his pack since he is not feeling any particularly fatigue.
“Mind that ye keep weapons and ammo handy. And here – pitch those packs to each side and knock some fronds over them. Happen the nips’ll think we’ve set another ambush” – Pinko
With the skimpy and unconvincing ruse in place – having taken no more than a few seconds – the section hustles once more. On the third combat round after that, automatic fire is heard from behind. Delay achieved!
Crossing the creek and exchanging fire
The ground dips as Harding and Cade jog forward, clumsily since the trail is fit for elephant not man. A watercourse, too small and shallow to be called a chaung, runs with water ahead of them. The scouts dither a little but as Pinko catches them, momentum returns.
“Paddy – Lou – spread you out as you cross, make it obvious where you hit the jungle and knock leaves and such about to look like bivvies” – Pinko, striding across covering the back-trail
Even this brief ruse takes time and as the rifles file ahead of Pinko he catches sight of the first couple of Japanese soldiers. [A poor Notice check so they are right up to the creek, but in concealment] With a burst he drops the lead soldier [18 damage, at the first range increment burst fire from a Bren can be deadly]
And as the section hustles on they feel the previous hours of slog and combat taking their toll. The first CON check is made, DC11. Pinko fails and takes 1d6 Subdual damage, 6 in this case, while Williams also fails and takes 1. Harding also fails and takes 2.
The second hour: a shot-up village
It is increasingly dark and Cade’s background as poacher/thief becomes more useful than Harding’s knockabout background for feeling their way down the trail. Cade is not the super-spotter that Harding is but he makes an adequate Notice check.
The CON check is now DC12, but this time all characters soldier on. [I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that when characters miss a check the NPCs also suffer]
Cade and Harding find a village, set amidst rice paddies. The half-moon allows them to spot that it is a crossroads, of a kind, so there is a path to the river here. They can also see that the bashas have been shot up and that bodies lie about them.
The nearest basha is about 100’ or so, a bund not too far past that. Harding ditches his pack and runs to the basha. The bodies are Japanese, the buildings have been shot through horizontally, not from the air.
As the Bren team catch Cade, Pinko cuts sharp right and readies his gun.
“I’ll cover you, then you cover us” – Pinko
A fire-fight ensues as C Section pulls out
Cade, closely followed by the rifles, duly runs down the road to the village. Williams decides to use the bund as cover. He still has an idea that if enough Japanese are downed they will pull back. Harding checks the village, Cade moves on through leap-frogging Harding. The rifles line the bund.
This takes a little more time than Pinko had expected and he hears [Notice 17, his first good Notice check] the enemy. He puts in a burst, with no effect.
By the time he Paddy and Lou move out the lead Japanese are already opening up.
- Cade/Williams and rifles (later drop to follow Japanese)
- Pinko and Bren team
- Imperial Japanese Army
Round 1: Pinko and his team regain the path and hustle about 40’. Tracer fire sprays around them and Lou dives into the nearest paddy. There’s no target for the rifles. Harding finds more bodies over on the east path, but is too far away to tell what manner of bodies they be.
Round 2: Cade searches his way to where he can see the north path disappear into the jungle. It all seems clear. Williams senses Japanese gaining the jungle fringe south, and orders [Command] his men to delay. They drop to the Japanese init.
“Rally lad!” Pinko bellows and continues with Paddy. The pair take the nearest basha at a run and dive under it! Lou edges along the paddy-side. Tracer searches out the basha and Japanese rifles fire: Pinko is unsettled [9 damage]. Williams tries to focus his rifles on the LMG but with a poor Command, fails. However, the rifle fire is inspired, three scoring solid hits.
Harding searches the bodies. Some are of Section B. It’s too dark to say what happened to them.
Round 3: Cade hustles north. Pinko steadies the Bren on the basha pile and puts the rest of the magazine across a short stretch of jungle near the path. As the Japanese fire back, Paddy flinches [ie he takes damage] while Lou continues creeping closer. Staples and Williams target the LMG and are accurate but foliage deflects part of their fire [the damage d10 are low].
From where he stands among bodies Harding can now be certain the river is close, but by no stretch of the imagination is there ferry or storage facilities. This is not the objective. He hustles back.
Round 4: Cade finishes his hustle to the jungle but it is too dark to make out any tracks. The Bren sprays further left, bracketing the path, with no visible effect [good saves by those covered].
“I hope ye have another mag Paddy, this is me last” – Pinko
“Wait for the tracer this time boyos, make it count” – Williams, making a good Command check
The LMG searches out Pinko’s nest [another 9 damage] but this time the rifles have seen where the tracer comes from and pour fire back, silencing it!
“Corp! The east path’s a bust – gotter scarper north!” – Harding
“Line of retreat north, lively now!” – Williams
Round 5: Cade fails to find anything with a poor Search check. The Bren team, Lou roughly opposite now, roll out from under the basha and pull back in as much cover as possible. The rilfes file back along the bund to the village, but Williams stays as cover. Harding withdraws north as best he can while keeping to cover and looking for spots where a booby-trap could be placed. [There isn’t one, in the time available]
Round 6 and on: The teams leapfrog one another back out and away, Williams sprinting to catch up.
The third hour: the objective is in sight
The CON check is now 13, and this time only Pinko makes it.
The lads are flagging as the trail winds upward. Everyone who needs to has shed gear. Harding and Cade reach a bare knoll from where they can see, north, a sizeable village in a wide clearing with a railway junction and ferry docks! However… with the aid of his telescope Harding can see a British-style barbed-wire entanglement around it, and mortar craters. [He rolls a 1 on Notice so sees only the obvious]
Further back on the line of march Lou collapses. Paddy takes Pinko’s pack, ditches non-essential gear and swings it onto his shoulder while Pinko gets his shoulder under Lou’s arm. This reduces his speed [medium load].
“Paddy – call Cade or Harding back, we need to move faster” – Pinko
Paddy finds Cade and grumbling, Cade returns and protestingly helps Lou. The march resumes at normal pace.
At the knoll Williams musters the section and exhorts it, pointing out the objective. [Good Command check]
Harding works his way down, and eventually finds that the path seems to have been recently blazed [Wilderness Lore, makes 20].
The fourth hour: silent knife work
Williams arranges himself, Staples and Harding in front. Walking wounded are bringing up the rear.
CON check is now DC14 and many among the section are flagging. Paddy looks very tired but keeps Pinko’s pack… for now.
The section files quietly towards the broad clearing. [Making a natural 20 on Notice] Williams spots a Japanese detachment, perhaps a platoon strong, facing the village. It is well spread out in the brush at the jungle verge. Mentally cursing, Williams passes the word back:
“We are going around”
Harding now leads off west [makes 12 on Wilderness Lore, which the GM decides produces mixed results] and manages to guide the section around, though not without attracting some attention. There is another, smaller detachment of Japanese in front of him! He swings north-west, passing between the two detachments.
As the Bren team file around the gap, two sentries walk back through the brush to investigate something. They are going to collide with the team!
Laying Lou down quickly Pinko signals to Cade, drawing his chiv out of his boot. Cade nods and draws his own commando knife. Then Pinko realizes Lou will be seen as soon as the sentries get close. Right then, he thinks, let’s take advantage of that!
Paddy Pinko and Cade pull back against trees between Lou and the sentries. As the latter begin making Lou’s shape out and are 5’ past the trees Pinko and Cade step behind them and go for the grapple-and-stab!
After a complex grapple combat [which is dreadfully involved so I won’t try to explain it] Pinko’s enormous strength achieves one dead sentry and Paddy and Cade manage the other between them.
Crawling to safety
With both detachments none the wiser, C section nears the rail and pauses to work out what options they have.
“Corp – this is where a real sneaker can crawl along the rail into camp, ask them for a diversion” – Pinko
Williams shakes off his assumption that the camp ought to be attacked and sends Harding. Using moon-shadow, Harding creeps along the rail embankment and gets within soft hail of the camp. There’s a very tense moment since Harding leads with a “Section C here” and the Baluchi sentry does not offer a watch-word. But then Harding calls “Sheik of Araby” and is given the correct counter and all is well.
The Baluchi’s naik rousts out Lt. Barnet who lays on an impressive distraction, since Harding can point to bits of jungle where the detachments are sited. The Vickers plays its deadly fire along the brush.
Section C ‘slowly hustles’ forward, also using the embankment for as much cover as possible. And gain safety!
Those who lost hp recover at the normal hp/day rate after an initial cup of char has restored 6hp.
Those with subdual damage from exhaustion recover that at the same rate but separately.
Williams Pinko and Cade move to L3. Williams takes SMG proficiency and after some debate as to merits (very good to have that at table) Cade takes rifle proficiency. Pinko takes Wpn Focus – Bren.
Back at Prome’s defensive zone Slim is in charge now
All safe and sound then pet, barring a few scratches and lost gear. I had to tell Ward off though, the silly sod scraped a leech off with his bayonet and no surprise, it’s septic now. I did show them how you burn them off with a fag, but there’s no telling some people.
It turns out that Section B did suffer casualties but only a few. Section A/Vickers made it back safely. All things considered we were all lucky. Our gear and particulars have been replaced, back to wearing in a new blanket.
Meanwhile life returns more towards normal here. The buzz is all over where the RAF has gone (air raids on the town and ferries every second day for breakfast!) and about desertions among 1st Burma.
The regiment got a visit from our Corps’ new commander, Lt-Genl Slim. Even I can follow the plan as he explains it. It’s to pull back across the Irrawaddy and eventually to India, through Ava to Assam, and make sure we don’t ditch refugees.
But just now I did see Corp head into the information tent, and I called after him ‘never volunteer’ but I dare say he won’t have a choice so signing off for now…
Small-scale commando raids made the hard-hit 17th Divn feel better, but in terms of strategy, Japanese airpower was at its zenith, driving the obsolete allied aircraft from the skies. In turn that allowed river and road attacks with impunity, and (as Pinko has implied) bombing raids over Prome that turned the once-pleasant town into a ruin.
Circumstances of command would eventually allow Slim to achieve parts of what he wanted – which was to concentrate, ready a counter and attack – but at this juncture both Toungoo (where the Chinese divisions were based) and Prome needed to be covered. Leaving the allies vulnerable to the next major Japanese attack!