THE BATTLE OF BURTONWOOD
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This was sent to my husband from MOOSE

 

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THE BATTLE OF BURTONWOOD

 

The 'Battle of Burtonwood is the true and often humorous story of an 'Exercise' which took place in England during August 1942, between the Warrington Home Guard Units : (Thames Board, Crosfield and Lancs Steel) and the Americans to test the defences of Burtonwood Airfield the largest American Airbase outside the United States.The objective, (in the event of an enemy attack from the South of England) was the 'Bewsey Bridge' which was opposite Gate 4, the main gate to the airfield north of Warrington. It was also the first 'Skirmish' between the British and Americans since the War of Independence in 1775-83.

 

One Friday in late July 1942 word went around that all Home Guard personnel were to report for duty, only shift workers and the sick would be exempt. One evening the Crosfield Home Guard paraded outside the factory gates, they were almost at full strength. Captain Newall, 6 Lieutenants, Sgt. Major Webb, 6 Sgts, plus 50 other ranks, all well disciplined and well armed with American Mk 3 Lee-Enfield rifles. The Company were marched off to the Old Quay Canal at Arpley where a blackboard was set up and Capt. Newall began one of his famous pep talks. ! “ Since we were formed 2 years ago we've come a long way and now we are the finest Company in the area. We beat the Regular Army at ' Buttermilk Bridge' and even taught the Commandos a lesson, we are now going to be tested again.

 

Our next operation is 'Top Secret', more information will be forthcoming after I have liaised with Lt. Nesser from the LSC Home Guard and the Thames Board Home Guard”. Sgt. Major Webb marched the Company back to its HQ 'The Sloop' where it was dismissed.

 

The following day the Company was again assembled around the blackboard. The Commanders took up positions at the sides of it and uncovered a sketch plan of the St. Helens Canal, the plan of battle was to attack 3 points. The LSC Home Guard were to cross the 'Sankey Brook' (better known as ' Stinking Brook')via the 'Sankey Brook Bridge' and capture the 'Loch Gate Bridge'. The Thames Board Home Guard was to attack along Hood lane and capture the Hood Lane Guardroom. The main attack will be along the St Helens Canal by the Crosfield Home Guard Company, their objective is Gate 4 and the wooden turnable bridge. (The attack is put on hold, because L/Corp. Leo , the Company Cook, arrives with tea and cheese butties.)

 

The American defences are strongest around the bridges at Bewsey. The LSC Home Guard are to attack both the Bewsey and the Bewsey Lockgate at the same time, while the Crosfield Home Guard are to attack along the canal in support of the LSC and also cross the wooden turntable bridge and attack the American centre, which is at Jones Farm. Unknown to the Americans, the men of the Home Guard had given the local children crisps and pop as an inducement to hide in the bushes, wait for the Americans to cross the turntable bridge then run out and turn it, trapping them. Three of Crosfields men would then cycle (dressed as boiler men) into the American HQ. Once inside they were to let off thunderflashes and red flares

declaring the operation a success.

 

The LSC were attempting to cross the ' Stinking Brook' by means of a home made raft and bridge, the bridge suddenly collapsed leaving 4 men in the water, the laughing G.I.'s pulled them out as prisoners.The remainder of the LSC Company then attacked across the allotments in open formation to be told by the Umpires that they had been wiped out. Meanwhile Corp. 'Choccer' Langton heard that American infiltrators had been seen on the Crosfields recreation ground ( park ).Taking a platoon he went to investigate and discovered 4 off duty Americans dressed as cowboys coming from 'The Rose Inn'. 'Choccer' took them prisoners anyway, the Americans enjoyed every minute of it and passed around Chesterfield cigarettes to their guards, celebrating their capture. Meanwhile the Thames Board Home Guard Company attacked in two lines. The first line went right through the guardroom gates, but, did not get more than fifty yards.The American artillerymen, according to the umpires, had annihilated them and took the rest prisoner . Lt. Nesser flipped his lid, but after a big row the Thames Board Home Guard Company were given a roast dinner and a carton of cigarettes each, and later said it was the best meal they had had in a couple of years.

 

 

Meanwhile our three intrepid 'suicide squad' boilermen had ridden straight through Gate 4 guardroom, they had ridden through the first American line.The ruse had worked, the American sentries had been too busy talking to the local girls, while their fellow soldiers were celebrating victory over the LSC men. The squad set off two thunderflashes at the rear of the guardroom and told Sgt. 'Frogface' Froggat he was their prisoner. Another thunderflash was set off by the power plant, this was the signal for the Crosfield Home Guard Company to attack.

 

At that moment through Gate 4 two Americans escorted their prisoner 'The Tree'.. 'Chips' Chorley, master of disguises, who had not fooled the Americans at all. They were so busy taking photos of the 'The Tree' that they failed to notice two lines of Crosfield Home Guard Company advancing on the wooden turnbable bridge at Gate 4. Suddenly aware of the danger ten Americans charged the Crosfields men, flour bombs and thunderflashes were hurled all ways as the two forces met head on.Lt. Jimmy Earl M.M. was long past his prime,but, he managed to stick out his foot and send one of the Americans into the slimy green weed within the canal. At this moment the umpires arrived to sort out the melee, Sgt. 'Frogface' picked one up and threw him into the canal, it then became a free-for-all and another 5 men ended up in the canal as well. As more American support arrived, the Bewsy kids (The Pierpoint Street Gang) earned their chow, running from the bushes and turning the bridge around trapping 6 of the Americans .It was at this moment that Jack Whitcherly's 'Devil Dog' appeared, a cross between a Airdale and a Bull Terrier, it was such a fearsome sight that the Americans threatened to blow its head off. L/Corp. Leo, the company cook, was in a rage although he was only 4ft. 10Ins tall, he was, about to take on the American Army single handed, the reason ? Someone had thrown his soup kitchen into the canal.

 

There was a fiasco on the bridge, someone from the Crosfields Home Guard Company bought a thunderflash grit bomb into play, (these had a 10 second fuse, and on exploding grit flew in all directions) In all the confusion, dust and yelling ' The Tree' escaped, only to run straight into the canal, while the Americans charged again only to be met with more flour bombs and grit. Meanwhile Sgt. 'Peddler' Palmer who had gotten inside the U.S. Base entered the cookhouse telling everyone inside that they were his prisoners, The cook 'Big Saul' threatened to 'evict' Sgt. Palmer, a fight was about to take place between the two of them when the Duty Officer arrived and declared the exercise was over.' Big Saul' was actually the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the US/European Theatre forces.

 

Back at the canal the frist American sent flying into slime emerged, the Crosfield Company nicknamed him 'Slimey Slim'. When everything was sorted out the Americans agreed it had been a grand experience, except for poor old 'Slimy Slim'who hated 'Limeys' and said he'd kill any 'Limey' who got in his way. The Duty Officer carted him off to the guardroom, two weeks later the Company presented 'Slim' with a bottle of whiskey, for being a good sport.

 

The battle had lasted for 5 hours, the Americans once again proved to be wonderfully generous people. Every Home Guardsman received a slap up meal hosted by the Americans, then marched home laden with comics, candy and 2 cartons of cigarettes each. A lot of photos were taken by the Americans that day, they must be still around somewhere. The Americans had a great respect for the British people and when it came kindness he was unsurpassed. If you made a friend of him, you would have a friend for life.

 

Soon after the exercise in August 1942, over the following 3 years tens of thousands of American young men left our shores in their Flying Fortresses and Liberators, by land and sea, many to never see their homes and families again , to preserve the freedom we ALL cherish.

 

This extract is from…..

' The Battle of Burtonwood. ( Bewsy Bridge-Gate 4 ) August 1942'. Written by Wally Barnes. Owl Books. Available from Amazon Books.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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