Friday 10 February 2012

The Handsworth Volunteers

In the last post I talked about a game I played recently using my Very British Civil War force, the Handsworth Volunteers. Since we're now tracking our campaign on the Wargamers FC website, I thought it high time I wrote something about the background of this faction.

After the Great War of 1914-18, the few survivors of the Sheffield City Battalion returned home. The disastrous battle of Serre in 1916 had destroyed the battalion and caused the withdrawal of its remnants from the front line, and the men that had seen this were keen to avoid fighting again.

When Moseley's Fascists came to power, and trouble flared around the country, the Great War veterans now living in Handsworth were determined to stay out of it. This was soon to prove difficult though - as the Sheffield Peace Council declared that the city's factories were open to all that could pay for them, Handsworth's position near the edge of the defended city centre meant that trade convoys passed through regularly, drawing attacks from other factions in the area and threatening the safety of Handsworth's citizens. Those men that had travelled to Europe to defend liberty twenty years earlier could not stand for this and, led by George Baxter, made the call for volunteers to defend their homes and families.

Amongst those to answer this call were the Handsworth Sword Dancers, and so the Handsworth Volunteers adopted the locked swords as their symbol to mark themselves as separate from the different forces fighting each other in the area - it was their hope that the symbol would come to identify them as a group who would defend themselves but were not out to attack others.

Unfortunately this was not to be. As the newly formed Volunteers met on Handsworth's outskirts, and distributed the limited weapons and uniforms they had available (a mixture of old equipment they had kept from the Great War, and the few they had been able to scrounge and trade for food with Sheffield), a BUF recruiter knocked on the door of the cottage they were sat in. As she caught sight of the weapons and uniforms she turned to run, and making a split second decision, Baxter placed her under arrest.

The BUF had troops nearby who staged an immediate, yet unsuccessful, rescue attempt. The Volunteers had won their first battle, but had made an enemy of the government of the land in the process.

A few weeks later, they were attacked again by Royal Navy forces moving an armoured column through the area. Despite destroying two of these vehicles, the Volunteers took a mauling, and found themselves with limited manpower and unable to defend Handsworth alone.

George Baxter (who had now taken to wearing an officer's uniform and referring to himself as Brigadier Baxter) looked around for allies in this time of need and found them in the form of the Swallownest Socialist Brigade. As members of the Peace Council, the Communist Party of Great Britain wasn't able to directly take part in fighting in the area. To oppose the BUF, they instead sent weapons, uniforms, and funding to socialist groups in the area, and asked them to take and hold whatever positions they could.

The Swallownest Socialists were therefore well armed, but lacked the experience and leadership to effectively take on the fascists. The Handsworth Volunteers lacked men and weapons, but had the experience and skills to fight. For Brigadier Baxter it was a double edged sword - he could use the Swallownest weapons to protect Handsworth as he had promised, but to keep the Swallownest men on his side he would have to commit to a more aggressive campaign against the right wing factions in the area - putting Handsworth on the side of the left, and possibly bringing more attention to those he had intended to keep out of the fighting.


  1. Great stuff... they look great posing on the building.

  2. Great pictures mate.

    GB do and officer with a sword who would be a great sword dancer.

    1. Thanks, that does look like an interesting model. I've got some plans for the Sword Dancers, watch this space...

  3. I've put this up on the main site in your section Matt.