"War is a drama, not a game of chess."
Gen Eisenhower

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Captain's Courageous - or - The Light Company Gets a Bath

Upon the safe return of Lieutenant Swiven to the Division, Captain Beesley and the Light Company had two weeks of blessed rest. The East Southhamstershires were kept busy guarding the Divisional Headquarters and there was no urgent need for the Light Company's services. Such idleness did not go unpunished. The men of the Light Company were good men in a fight and quite capable foragers. Too clever by half for many of the provosts. Chickens, pigs and goats began disappearing for mile around after the return of the Light Company. While nothing could ever be proven, enough complaints were raised that once again, the Light Company drew official notice. Finding himself in the General's tent, Captain Beesley sweats lightly as he awaits his audience. His Colonel stands beside him casting disproving glances Beesley's way since neither knew why they were summoned. The General and his aide enter the room. The twinkle in the general's eye only partially calms Beesley's nerves. "Well Captain, you and your rogues have made quite a name for yourselves. It seems that idleness does not become your men. So I have found something to keep them active." With a large smirk upon his face he adds, "We shall keep them from running a fowl of the provosts, eh?" Dutifully, the aide laughs at his general's jest. The Colonel joins in and subtlety moves away from Beesley, instinctively sensing something amiss and not wanting to get splashed in any foul mess that Beesley may have jumped into. "In reading your record, Beesley, I see that you have worked with the Navy before. And therefore you are familiar with His Majesty's ship HMS Gout?" The General continues without pause assuming the answers, "The Captain of the Gout has been ordered to land a company of British infantry on the northern coast of Spain as an observation post. You will be landed in the dead of night and given a number of birds to send messages back here to keep us informed. The Gout will check in on you from time to time, keeping you supplied with powder, shot and necessities. As resourceful as your men are, I do not thing you shall be lacking in any comforts." Beesley presented a calm outward visage but internally he ranted, Damn and blast Smallwood. Whose chickens has the man been stealing for my mess anyway? Wellington's?!? Instead he responded, "Yes sir," with a crispness that would have done them proud back at horse-guards. "Now, in order to move your men, we have had to rather upset Captain Turnwall as his ship had to be configured 'en flute' or whatever that nautical nonsense means. He seemed quite upset so be on your watch on the voyage. He has also had to post his marines to shore duty to fit your full company on board. Once landed, you will be staying here." With that he jabbed a finger at the map on the desk. You spot an 'x' on his map that is very near the French border. "This is a ruined castle that dates back nearly to the reconquista. You can see the main coast road coming down from France and keep an eye out for French movements into Spain. This is vital work. You will be relieved in about a month. Any questions?" By this the General made it clear that there were to be no questions and he was expected to go away. Three Days Later - Off the coast of Northern Spain The storm crashed down upon the HMS Gout. They had been in harsh weather for over 42 hours straight. The men of the Light Company were dreadfully sea sick. The men of the Gout were fighting for their ship's very life. Though Beesley offered his assistance, he was rudely dismissed below by the Captain. The second officer and three hands had already been lost in this storm. Several more have been sent to the surgeon having ruptured themselves in the strenuous work of saving the ship. To the men of the Light Company, they nearly to a man believed that they were doomed. Fifty six hours into the storm, the wind slackened enough that the sailing master and the Captain decided on a desperate plan. They ran the ship towards the shore in an attempt to wait out the storm in a sheltered cove that the Sailing Master knew from his days as a smuggler in his misspent youth. Halfway into the mouth of the cove, the main top gallant mast snapped with a thunderous report. The whip crack of stays and lines was heard slashing from above as the broken mast plunged downward to the deck below. The mast struck the deck after first passing through the body of the captain, nearly cutting the man in half. The next two hours were a blur of motions as sailors and their surviving officers restored order and saved the ship. Once order has been restored, Captain Beesley found himself being summoned by the ship's Bosun to the Captain's cabin. Finding himself there with the First Lieutenant (now captain of the Gout), a Midshipman, the Sailing Master, the Bosun, the surgeon and the Master Gunner, he looked from man to man at the grim faces. Lieutenant Hardbrace spoke for the group, "Captain Beesley, we cannot complete the mission as ordered. The ship is leaking badly from the storm. We lack the cannon to defend ourselves in the event of an attack from sea. We need to repair the masts and other damage to the rigging. We are stranded here on this shore until we can make repairs. We need your help." The last sentence was delivered where Hardbrace had to visibly swallow his pride before hand. Beesley nods, "I understand, Captain. I have inquired with my Ensign, the pigeons have all perished in the storm. Even if you were to drop us off at our original destination, we have no means of communicating back with the division. Half my men are still ill from the voyage but I place my officers and those of my men that can work at your disposal." With relief the naval types all nod. Hardbrace describes their situation, "We are in a sheltered cove. It is doubtful that anyone has spotted our arrival and we are secluded enough here that unless someone comes down the hill from above, we should not be noticed. I would like your men to form a perimeter around the hill and serve as sentries while my men complete the repairs on the ship. If you have men to spare, we need additional hands at the pumps to keep us from sinking." Pointing to the Bosun, "I will send the bosun ashore with a party of reliable hands to gather what materials we can in order to expedite repairs. There is a small fishing smack that we have confiscated in the cove. We have this and one longboat left. The other ships boats were lost in the storm. We will begin ferrying your men ashore as soon as you are able." Another half hour of quick work sketched out what little was known of the cove and their approximate location. ======================================================================================== This will be the third outing of Captain Beesley and the Light Company. I have been looking for a way to utilize the Frigate model that I have been building. This seems to fit the bill. I hope to get this on a table to game out shortly.


  1. Chris,

    Exciting Story! Wonder what they will meet on shore.

    Mad Padre,
    Great Report!


  2. That's a terrific story. It reminded me of "Master and Commander" and other stories by Patrick O'Brien. Looking forward to the next bit and to some pictures, maybe pictures of your frigate?
    Great writing.