Time now for the second instalment in the 1838: A Very British Civil War (VBCW) campaign. In the second battle, Leon took control of Juan Caballero and the Wirral Socialists again, while I took Captain Webster’s Manchester Legion of the British Union of Fascists (BUF).
Helsby is a small town on the River Mersey, fairly unremarkable were it not for the fact a prominent outcropping of red sandstone, known as Helsbey Hill, overlooks it. The hill is the location of four fixed-gun emplacements that are one of the cornerstones of the Socialists defences, as they dominate the Mersey, the mires and the surrounding area. As such, the Socialists have seen fit to ensure Helsby has its own garrison, as well as fortifications and trenches. Taking Heslby will be no small task, but one that is essential if the Royalists are going to capture Helsby Hill.
Captain Webster of the Manchester BUF has taken upon himself to take Helsby Hill, as he believes that will be sufficient to draw him to the attention of the commanders of the army, and perhaps even the King. He desperately wants to earn status, with the eventual goal of becoming ennobled. To this end he has been probing the defences of Helsby in preparation for a push as soon as the weather bucks up. He has been given permission to commandeer Hoole Hall, just outside of Chester, to use as his head quarters, and he had a large force of BUF billeted in Hoole.
In preparation for the attack he has established a forward base and supply depot at Cornhill Farm, just south of Helsby.
During his push he plans to relocate his head quarters there, and use it to resupply his troops. He has managed to scrounge a tanker of fuel from the army, and has sent it to Cornhill Farm until it is needed. A small garrison of BUF guard the farm, along with the farmer and his sons, who are die-hard royalists.
Juan Caballero, while recovering from his wounds in Helsby, heard tell of the BUF’s planned push, and also of the location of the depot at Cornhill Farm. He hatched an audacious plan to capture the fuel tanker before the attack, thus delaying the push, and buying more time for the Socialists to reinforce the defences of Helsby.
Juan’s forces attacked at dawn, catching the defenders of the Farm by surprise. The bulk of the Socialists crossed the open fields surrounding the farm, coming under light sporadic fire from the defenders, but Juan sent one squad, supported by a pair of Russian-trained snipers from Liverpool, up the railway tracks to try to hold off any reinforcements that might arrive by rail.
The Socialist force stalled trying to find a way through the barbed wire stretched across the field. Although shots were exchanged with the defenders, casualties on both side were low.
Finally word got through to Hoole Hall, and Captain Webster, grabbing what men he could (a platoon of BUF guarding the train station in Hoole) and raced to reinforce Cornhill Farm.
The train arrived under full steam, its carriage laden with BUF fighters.
Just as the heroic Spaniard led his men through the wire, Webster’s train drew to a screeching halt alongside the farm and the BUF pour out. Captain Webster, not as heroic as Juan, directed his troops from the safety of the carriage.
The Socialists ambush the BUF as they scrambled off the train, wiping out one squad, and the sections HMG. The remaining squad, and Captain Webster’s command squad, struggle through the hedgerow to the farm, just as Juan’s Socialists storm the barricades and wipe out the last of the defenders.
The Socialist succeed in outflanking the BUF reinforcements, and the last BUF squad was wiped out, leaving Captain Webster and his command squad facing the whole of Juan Caballero’s force. The Captain surrendered to the Spaniard, and the BUF banner was captured, along with the fuel truck.
Later Captain Webster was handed over to agents of the BUF in Frodsham in exchange for some of the prisoners captured previously, along with a crate of good scotch whiskey and two packs of rough shag pipe tobacco. To Captain Webster’s continuing humiliation, the Socialists refused to hand over the BUF banner, and instead hung it in the dance hall in New Brighton, where it became an object of ridicule, referred to as ‘The Spaniard’s dish cloth.’