|Posted by Andy on February 28, 2016 at 10:40 PM|
"I remember feeling the need, then, to assist, but assist who I was not certain - perhaps to protect the less able patients. But as I stood, I lost my bloody balance, my bloomin cane failed me and slipped away, and I fell to the ground, bashing my head against the nearby table and knocking myself out cold."
Reading this passage, young Dante caught his breath, and adjusted his electric torch beneath his sleeping linen. His father would give him a whipping if he got caught reading in bed, after hours.
Dante had found this gem of a history book in the school library some days before. He'd found it fascinating and was having trouble putting it down. Written long ago by a retired Major Dr. Werther Farthingsworth, "Out of Africa : The British Military Exodus of 1895" told of a time when Britain and the rest of Europe were in the midst of transitioning from a Phoney War to a very real Great War.
He'd read about the great aerial battles over French North-West Africa, how members of a British Museum expedition had used the cover of this battle to "rescue" certain ancient Elbonian artifacts. A chapter retold the daring escape of the British aero fleet and how it left Africa for safer skies, on its long journey back to Britain. He was just about to start a new chapter, the last for tonight before really turning out the light.
"Trouble on the Rocks"
"I returned to conciousness just a few minutes later, thanks to the gentle ministrations of Anna, the lovely nurse who had been an angel to me over the several weeks of my recuperation. I was clearly not fit to render any of my fellow countrymen aid, but rather, made do by helping Anna, as best I could, ensure the safety and well being of the other patients in this wing of Gibraltar's Saint Bernard's Hospital. While our efforts were focused on those who could not help themselves, far more relevant events were playing out elsewhere in that very building. It would be long after the event had passed before I could collect notes, interview survivors, and be in a position to document what had actually transpired."
"Following its successful evacuation from Africa, along the "Paper" route, the British Aero forces, under the command of Rear Flight Admiral Robert Wubhearst, joined up with the main British task force under Flight Admiral Stephen Casten-Smith, CinC British Africa. Casten-Smith then brought the fleet to safe mooring in the shelter of Gibraltar's guns."
"Eager to begin his examination of the relics of the Pharoah Wubakhamun, Sir Harold Collingwood, Conservator-in-Chief of the British Museum, ordered the transfer of the relics in his possession to the relative security offered by Gibraltar's Saint Bernard's Hospital. What at first might seem a foolhardy decision, makes some sense when one stops to consider that some of Sir Harold's men had been wounded in the previous battles and Sir Harold was nothing if not concerned about the well being of his staff. The hospital also provided him equipment he might need to begin his examination of the treasures brought from Africa."
"Sir Harold secured many of the treasures in a large lab in the center of the hospital, including four sealed sarcophagi. Pity for him, the fabled Staff of Wubakhamun was elsewhere, secure and under guard in the hospital administrator's office."
"Saint Bernard's had seen a recent increase in the presence of British Colonial troops, no doubt assigned to the wards as security. I myself witnessed this in the weeks before that fateful morning of 1 May 1895. The intelligence services of a number of nations must all have come to a similar conclusion. Faced with the potential for the imminent relocation of the relics, no doubt to a location far less easily assailed, no less than four adventuring companies, clandestine agents provacateur for several of the Great Powers, struck the hospital that fateful morning."
"Bursting in through the northern wing's main doors came the forces of Lord Edward Ronan Curr, late a Major of the Queen’s Own Africa Rifles, and a maverick. He had lost his commission after successfully putting down a Bantu uprising, but at the cost of most of his command. Curr's force had become a mercenary outfit. While he may have been there as insurance to help Whitehall protect the relics, his history and his actions that day suggested he may have just as easily and just as likely been there working for some other employer."
"As I regained conciousness I was able to note that he and his men were moving unopposed out of the ward, heading deeper into Saint Bernards. My later research suggested that the local British Colonial Leftenant in charge of the hospital garrison succeeded in misleading Curr, sending him off on a wild goose chase. This brilliant ruse succeeded in making Curr and his company a non-factor in determining the final outcome of this Battle for Saint Bernards."
"Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the hospital, in the southern ward, the sounds of gunfire and obvious pandemonium elsewhere in the hospital spurred Charles La' Strange into action. La' Strange and his associates, believed to represent the interests of the French government, had been posing as patients. Rising up from their restful positions and revealing their well concealed and camoflaged weapons, the Family La' Strange moved quickly, deeper, into the hospital. Their chosen course would be fortuitous, as they quickly came to the offices of the hospital administrator. The speed and decisiveness of their movements suggested the French had no doubt been busier then their rivals in gathering intelligence. Conspiracy therorists to this day believe there is a connection between the French being strangely absent at the Battle of the Paper Route and yet were Johnny-on-the-spot at the Battle of Saint Bernards."
"The Family La' Strange would go on to fight their way through the British Museum guards set to protect the Staff of Wubakhamun and would, in fact, secure it and spirit it away"
"Troops of the Prussian Assault Corps, under Oberst, Herr Josep Phlips, also stormed into Saint Bernards, through the east hospital entrance. Oberst Phlips' stormtroopers quickly engaged a concentration of British Colonial guards. Once the guards were largely overwhelmed, the Prussians were immediately acosted by the dire forces of the Servants of Wubakhamun."
"The Servants had rushed into the hospital from the main western entrance. They were the guardians of the memories, temples, and relics of the great Pharoah. The battle in the center of the hospital raged on for close to 30 minutes, with the Servants gaining the upper hand for a time, until the weight and discipline of Prussian arms were too much for all the Servants save the very tough mummified remains of a long dead priest. "
"With the British soldiers beaten back and the bulk of the Servants decimated, Oberst Phlips' men focused on the dead priest while the Oberst himself made off to find the Staff of Wubakhamun. Unfortunately, he was too late. La' Strange had just escaped the hospital with the relic in hand."
"In the immediate aftermath of the commotion, the prinicpal antagonists melted back into the warrens of Gibraltar, just as easily as they had suddenly materialized, no doubt aided and abetted by the Spanish underground."
Dante yawned and closed his book. He knew there were a few more pages left in this chapter but he was too tired to finish them tonight. He was looking forward to reading about the next stage of this great story. The tale of how La' Strange and his French masters managed to fool the British and escape Gibraltar with the Staff of Wubakhamun, an artifact that would have tremendous impact on the battles to come.
We had a great time playing In Her Majesty's Name with a collection of Northstar and Reaper figures and a model hospital I built from foam core and balsa. The building shell can be used in the future for any skirmish game and I may, at some point, have to build both a basement and a second floor for it.
Barry, Rob, Joe, Kurt, Daniel, Thattya, and I had a great time propelling our ongoing VSF saga along. I'd like to thank them all for playing.