Friday, February 4, 2011

[1938] Personalities: Major Irvine Thornsby, BUF Commander

File:Rodolfo Graziani.jpg
Major Irvine Thornsby, BUF 1st Solway Legion
Primary: Hearts King (Honorable)
Secondary: Club 8 (Career Soldier)

Major Irvine Thornsby is in a pickle and one not of his making. Since joining the BUF in 1934, he's attached his horse to "Bully Boy" Boyce, rising as Boyce has risen and falling as well. And Boyce's failed invasion of the Isle of Man is where his fall started.

After the diminished BUF 1st Solway Legion came ashore on the Isle of Man at Port St. Mary after the disastrous sea battle near Douglas, good ole "Bully Boy" high-tailed it back to the mainland by plane, leaving Irvine to hold the bag. He was an Officer of the Great War (something he's held to with great pride), before all this started, and once a true believer in Mosley's (and the King, by extension) cause. Now, he's torn by his duty to his oaths and his duty to his men.

As an Officer of the Great War, he's seen his share of death and was suprised that he'd be left in a position very much like the trenches of France. But the trench warfare that he very much felt was a waste of men and material has come upon him again, this time in his very own England.

His troops mean the world to him and that is what keeps him going. No longer is he worried about his place in history or his advancement or his good name, as he's since learned that the Isle of Man invasion has become "Thornsby's Folly," at least among the BUF. And he's perfectly aware of the source - Boyce, in an effort to save face, has abandoned Irvine and spread the idea among the fascists that the invasion was Thornsby's plan all along (of which few Royalist officers believe but the BUF is eating up).

To the BUF high command, the Isle of Man is a lost cause but one that could have some advantage. Thornsby has realized that his position is used solely to keep enemy forces that could be used elsewhere against Mosley bottled up, no matter the cost in men. As a result, support from the mainland has trickled to an occasional resupply.

In the few months that Port St. Mary has been occupied, he has worked hard to train his small force to the peak of efficiency, for two reasons: keeping the troops busy prevents trouble with the villagers and hoping against hope that he'll figure some way to abandon this fruitless battlefield for a better one.

He cannot retreat nor can he advance and so is forced to dig in, in a hostile village. Well aware that the villagers are informing the enemy on his every movement (and also aware that stopping that flow of information is a near impossibility), he has instituted a rather direct approach to the civilians, warning them to not become involved in military matters and the BUF will be kept in check. If the villagers stay out of it, then there will be no trouble. He has hanged three of his own men, two for looting and one for attempted rape, to show his good will towards them. As a result of this intervention, the villagers will avoid direct trouble (i.e. a gun battle) with BUF legionaires.

He's instituted rationing on the village, making sure that the poor, elderly and widowed are properly fed even before his own men (as he fears that the Manx forces will shell the village if civilians are mistreated). With limited food stock, he's allowed the local fishermen to continue their trade (with BUF soldiers sprinkled among the boats to keep them in line) but knows that this could spell trouble in the future, if Manx forces attempt an infiltration of the Port.

A strict curfew is in effect, starting at 8PM until 5AM and each villager is required to carry identification papers at all times (printed by the now-seized local paper and changed at his whim). So far no one has been shot violating curfew (though he warns the villagers that is a possibility).

Using the local press, he has printed "Mosley script" to pay for everything he and his troops "buy," assuring the merchants that the government will reimburse them after the conflict is over. He's kept trouble to a minimum by allowing the local pubs to be open only to civilians three days a week, alternating with the three BUF-only days (Sundays, the pubs are closed). The BUF legionaires have been warned about stiff penalties for public drunkiness.

Though he is a harsh commander, made even harsher by his circumstances, his men have grown to love and respect "the Old Man," and will, increasingly, follow him out of sheer devotion. He's keeping them alive, occupied and fed, a miracle in these times. As the siege wears on, the majority of his men develop a dislike to BUF policies (the one that stranded them here in particular) and their loyalties will shift totally onto him - a situation which may lead to the legion, as a whole, to force the Major to chose which side of the war he's really on.

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