The Battle at Hartford Bridge
Fellow BUF, After much negotiation you have been given the honour and responsibility of transporting a high value prisoner. You must deliver the prisoner to Morpeth Gaol in person. At your disposal are the following assets; transport charabanc and a van and 20 men.
Terrance Atheridge, Local Chief, BUF Gateshead Branch.
Army of the Northern Marches
Tomorrow a valuable prisoner is being transported to Morpeth to stand before the beak. His escort will be members of the BUF. However the Duke doesn't want them thugs parading through the streets of Morpeth. Thus you are to erect a checkpoint at Hartford Bridge, stop the convoy and negotiate with them to hand over their prisoner. You are then to convey the prisoner to Morpeth yourself.
Captain Robson, Adjutant Warden, Northern Marches.
That damn fool Kirkup has gotten himself arrested again. However this time the authorities are linking him with the farmhouse debacle. He is to be transported to Morpeth gaol tomorrow where I'm sure they will loosen his tongue. You are to ride cross county to the ambush point, a place called Hartford Bridge, free Kirkup and make your escape. This point has been chosen for three reasons. No-one will expect an attack this far north. The bridge is a natural defile which is vulnerable to attack. You can make your escape along the river upstream to the west without the risk of being followed. NB Kirkup must not be allowed to reach Morpeth. If necessary you have my authorisation to eliminate him. Thus take your best shooter and a spotter to support him.
Head of Duma Security
Following the arrest of Kenneth Kirkup, John Harding issues orders to free him from custody. Although troublesome, Kirkup represents a vital agent in the Duma’s plans, given his knowledge of the media and his skill at propaganda. The Chopwell Cossacks are assigned duties to rescue Kirkup at minimum cost.
After the briefing session Comrade-Commissar Ivan Eardley approached Richard Lambert quietly. He explained that Kirkup must not be allowed to remain in enemy hands. If he could not be rescued, ‘Red Ken’ was to be killed. Grimly Lambert agreed and made sure he took along one or two keen marksmen.
Richard Lambert, Master of the Cossacks, took his 35 riders out to the bridge at Hartford Bridge (the bridge today), the location identified by the Communist informants as the best ambush point on the expected route Kirkup will be transferred to Morpeth Gaol via.
Leaving their horses tethered to the rear (with 5 holders/guards) along the river, Lambert sets up an ambush along the road west of the bridge and sends another ambush team forwards to the bridge itself. He also sends an assault team armed with Suomi SMGs, pistols and shotguns south across the river tasked with blocking off any enemy retreat and to actually go in and rescue Kirkup.
As the morning mists clear, a small van accompanied by a clattering charabanc trundled up the road from the south. The assault team watch from the woods as it rolls by, shocked to see a large number of BUF troops on the bus. The Communists had been expecting police and perhaps some auxiliaries in support.
The forward ambush had an even nastier shock as they approached their ambush point. Loitering at the farmhouse gate was a small squad of regular army soldiers! The Communists back off slightly and begin arguing about what to do. Police are one thing, but taking on the army is altogether another game.
They watched as the charabanc halted south of the bridge and the small van approached the military roadblock. Although they couldn’t hear exactly what was being said, they could see BUF uniforms in the van and watched transfixed as the BUF and the soldiers began to argue with each other.
Lambert strained through his binoculars to make out what was going on, but seeing that the van which he assumed was carrying Kirkup had been blocked, he ordered his comrades forwards to the bridge. They moved swiftly and unseen through the dense woodland.
Suddenly, to the south, the dull chatter of automatic fire echoed across the scene. The Communist assault troops couldn’t believe their luck! A whole bus full of BUF just sitting yards away, waiting to be killed. They opened fire with a fierce volley of shots that peppered and dinged through the charabanc.
They did little however but surprise the BUF who proceeded in a panic to pile out of the doors and shattered windows of the bus as it jolted forwards up onto the bridge. Sheltering on the bridge they returned accurate fire inflicting injuries on the Communists sheltering behind trees and seriously wounding their unit leader.
Meanwhile to the north the BUF tumbled off the bridge and into the forest only to find themselves in a lethal close ranged Communist cross fire.
Desperately sheltering behind trees or in ground depressions the BUF and the Communists exchanged panicked snap fire. Weight of numbers and the cross fire told however, and soon most of the BUF were seriously injured or killed. Finally their unit leader, scanning in panic for a route away took a shot through the neck and the remaining BUF scrabbled back to the bridge, dragging their wounded as best they could.
Meanwhile, at the bridge the Army and BUF continued to argue. It seems the prisoner Kirkup was supposed to be handed over and the paperwork for the transfer wasn’t in order. The army privates finally gave up the debate and smashed open the back of the van to take the prisoner bundling him into their car and speeding away north.
Things looked hopeless for the Communists and it seemed Kirkup was being snatached away! However, Lambert quickly shouted at his comrades to shoot out the tyres on the car. He wasn’t willing to give up on ‘Red Ken’ just yet. A sporadic volley of poorly aimed shots peppered the car which promptly exploded! All present watched helplessly as the soldiers and Kirkup trapped inside the burning vehicle thrashed about desperately. One solder managed to stumble out ablaze but it was too late for everyone in the car.
The whole action was over in less that 10 minutes and Lambert and the Cossacks retreated from the scene and made their escape west, leaving only one or two dead, but carrying many wounded.
The badly mauled BUF tended their wounded and the remaining solders emerged from the farm house to survey a scene of devastation. The Communists, it seems, have made a very powerful new enemy…
- Steve Hardy and Malcolm Gordon, DWG