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Battle of Down Holland Cross

Foiled at their efforts in crossing the leeds Liverpool canal the Government forces decide to use it ‘as a bayonet pointed at the heart of Liverpool Rebellion’ (William Boyce BUF Commander Northern Army’s Army of Liverpool 1938.) This entailed using barges to transport, support and supply an battlegroup advancing down the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towards Liverpool.

Added to this overall strategy was the objective of seizing various villages they laid between the Liverpool Free State occupied Ormskirk in order to cut off the pocket of resistence. The first battle in both these campaigns was the Battle of Down Holland Cross.

Government forces (seen above advancing on the villages) consisted of…

Leeds Liverpool Canal Battlegroup

East Lancs Brigade

All regular

Brigade HQ – Brigadier Usher Pilkington

1st battalion, East Lancashire Regiment

4th battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (TA)

5th battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (TA)

Each Battalion 1 Stand LMG, 1 stand HMG, 4 Rifles

In support

  1. Preston ‘North Enders’ BUF Armoured Assault Detachment (platoon refitted WWI tank) Milita
  2. Battery, Royal Artillery medium Gun Regular
  3. Bolton ‘The Wanderers’ BUF Battalion 6 Rifles Milita
  4. Queen Wallis Narrowboat Volunteers Squadron 4 unarmed Boats Milita

Opposing them in the streets and barricades of Downholland Cross (see above) was

Downholland Cross Defence Force

Command & Support Elements Regular

General Degsy + 2 Bodyguard rifles (Worker’s Army)

1st Anti-Tank Battery, Jim Bowie Battalion, George Washington Legion 1 A-T Gun

Litherland Labour Party Armoured Car Squadron, (Workers Defence Corps) 2 A/C

Combined Navy-Liverpool Regiment Heavy Artillery Battery

Liverpool Irish Battalion (ex-Liverpool Irish Regt regs and TA as opposed to IRA or Irish Free State ‘volunteers’ Regular)

A Company – 3 Infantry & Vickers

B Company – 4 Infantry

Elements 5th Mixed Brigade Milita

1st (Survivors) Battalion Toxteth Rifles (Parliament Street Defence Vounteers) 4 Rifles

Isle of Man Freemen Guerrillas (ex-pat Manx socialist volunteers) 2 Rifles

The Battle progressed with Government forces advnacing down the canal and de-busing from the Narrowboats in good order. The Labour party armoured cars took position on the brigade and called down inaccurate artillery fire which was relayed by General Degsy. The Liverpool Irish and Amercians faced the advancing troops while the 5th Brigade elements was placed in reserve.

The ‘North Enders’, 4th and 5th Battalion East lancs where ‘frit’ and their advance delayed by poor morale rolls resulting from artillery strikes that did little real damage.

The Royal Artillery on the other hand observed for by 1st Batttalion East Lancs brought down accurate fire including dispatching the a platoon of Litherland Armoured Cars as the North Enders advanced on the village. B Company Liverpool Irish fled under tank fire and an RAF fighter air strike. General Degsy was also killed by tank fire.

The most enthusiastic advance was by ‘Wanders’ BUF battalion that made good pace to the right flank of the village. By then the ‘North Enders’ advance had been brought to a half – artillery fire having knocked out one platoon and small arms fire pinned the other. The Royal Artillery knocked out the Free State guns and then the BUF engaged in a firefight with the Liverpool Irish.

At this point a relationship fell apart between General Degsy’s replacement – Comrade Colonel Michael Murray and the Liverpool Irish leading to freindly fire incidents. This combined with accurate BUF fire knocking out A Company’s vickers gun led them to flee their defences on the edge of the village. Colonel Murray and his guards were enaged on the front line and couldn’t call forward the 5th Brigade elements on the far side of the village. In light of the Irish rout Free State Forces retreated off table intending to fight another day.

The Wanderers closed with bayonets on the Americans to acted as a rear guard- having dispatched them filled with bloodlust they proceeded to torch the quiet Lancashire village and shoot the male population for being ‘a hotbed of Bolshevisim.’ (artocity was rolled last turn of game.)

Conclusion

The loss of the tanks is a heavy price for the Govt forces. However on balance seizing the village achieved 2 goals.

  • The makes possible further advance down the Leeds-Liverpool Canal
  • Equally forces can advance via Aughton and other villages south or Ormskirk to cut of LFS forces there supplied by the bridge at the ‘Cross.

Free State Forces need to lick their wounds and consider a more active and joined up defence. A local offensive elsewhere on the Ormskirk front may be needed to give breathing space to those troops under attack.

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