(Note: this article originally appeared in Issue #43 of Wargames Illustrated in April 1991)
” … its six o’clock, on Tuesday the 27th October 1998. This is the Royal Somerset Broadcasting Service, and now the news from Wessex and around the world. The headlines: Scotland has seceded from the British Republic, fighting has broken out along the border. Royalist army and volunteer militia units have pushed back across the border an armed incursion by Democratic Guards into south-west Dorset last night. Bristol Docks were once again the target of bombing over the night, but damage has been minimal. The United States has once again confirmed its commitment to the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Wessex and Duchy of Cornwall.”
The last pitched battle ever to take place on English soil was on Sedgemoor in Somerset on the 6th of July 1685. Monmouth tried to beat the King and his government, but was defeated. Now a new rebellion has taken place in the same area. Briton is fighting Briton; there is civil war in England.
In 1995, the election of George Cranwell as prime minister did not surprise many – his abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords did. He purged the armed forces of their officers who had decided to remain loyal only to the crown, court-martialling and imprisoning those who steadfastly refused to remain silent. He furthermore requisitioned the vast majority of their equipment for his own, recently formed, Democratic Guards. He then upset the Americans, in 1996, by asking them to withdraw from their British bases, then their last foothold in Europe.
Though he was popular in some areas, generally there was resentment towards the new prime minister, and this led to the formation of Royalist opposition groups across the country. The largest were to be found in Somerset and Dorset. These groups gained support from many sections of society. including elements of the armed forces and some high ranking police officers.
The oil crisis, in early 1997, gave Cranwell the opportunity he had been looking for to extend his powers, by declaring martial law. This enabled him to strengthen his own position and keep in check any serious opposition.
Towards the end of 1997, and after an intensive, but relatively peaceful, campaign by Royalist opposition groups, Cranwell cracked down, blaming a violent bombing offensive on the Royalist groups. He announced that all such groups were subversive and a threat to national security and promptly banned them.
He took it a stage further and banned all opposition groups. His Democratic Guards took and held the already reduced broadcasting stations (due to the martial law) and took over the publication of the national newspapers. He affirmed his position, somewhat, by proclaiming he was now Protector of the Republic of Great Britain and that this was due to subversive elements which threatened all which Britain stood for. He was now, essentially, the dictator of Great Britain.
On March 17th, 1998, Royalists rose up in defiance and took control of key government buildings, airfields and broadcasting stations in the West Country and Cornwall. Supported by army units and Sea Harriers from what used to be the Royal Navy, there was little bloodshed. People came out onto the streets and cheered. The King who had been in exile in Canada flew back and landed at Bristol airport. The Kingdom of Wessex and Duchy of Cornwall was born.
George Cranwell was, of course, very angry at what had happened. He mobilised his Democratic Guards and ordered them to defeat the Royalist rebellion.
The Second English Civil War had started. Three hundred and thirteen years after the last pitched battle to take place on English soil, there were going to be more.
America, in an attempt to regain its influence within Europe, announced her support for the new state. “Volunteer” aircrews and army units started to arrive within hours of the declaration of independence. Many Royalist units also started to receive “donated” items of equipment, which included small arms and in some cases main battle tanks.
The EU, however, advocated a policy of non-intervention, though this didn’t stop some European countries forming volunteer units to help the Cranwellian Government.
Neither side really wanted to start an all-out war, mainly to keep their costly equipment intact, so much of the fighting was restricted to border skirmishes and tactical bombing raids. Notable exceptions were the Battle of Portsmouth and the heavy bombing of Yeovil.
With a mentality similar to that of the Israelis in 1948, the Royalists are fighting for their King and country. The majority of their forces are made up of army regulars of which most are from ‘Royal’ regiments, like The Kings Dragoon Guards. Many of these regiments had their names changed by Cranwell when he abolished the monarchy~ they have now reverted to their original names. British equipment is the norm, but this is augmented by American equipment and jury-rigged civilian vehicles. The forces are bolstered up with many colourful and strange allies. Volunteer units made up of local people and police are used for guarding vital installations, though a few mounted police units have been raised for reconnaissance purposes.
The army is helped out by The American Army for Freedom, a ‘volunteer’ unit which has access to a large amount of high-tech equipment and is based on a ‘donated’ aircraft carrier. Though this is denied by all official sources and the American government, the American Army for Freedom is in fact a regular US Marine Expeditionary Force sent by the US government in support.
In addition there are land-based units from the recently re-formed Royal Marines and Royal Navy. Air support is minimal and is restricted to a small amount of helicopter support, fixed wing aircraft are rare due to the fuel crisis.
The Republic Of Great Britain
The main element of the Republican forces are the Democratic Guards, a highly motivated and trained force consisting of army regulars and trained volunteers, many of the said volunteers are from the armies of sympathetic countries. Many regular army units, especially those from outside Wessex, stayed loyal to the Government, but are extraneous to the Democratic Guards. The RAF, re-named the Republican Air Force, stayed loyal and provides air cover to most operations and undertakes tactical bombing raids.
Both Guards and army use British equipment, though there is also a substantial quantity of French equipment in use. France has categorically denied supporting the Republic. Like the Royalists, the Republic’s forces are bolstered up with local militia.
With the deepening fuel crisis, a massive investment was made into the railway system, electrifying most of the system. Since the civil war started, steam trains have been put back into service, many from steam enthusiast lines. Both sides have also made use of armoured trains, recognising that a train in the locality of a troublesome town will normally keep it in check. It is also one of the most cost-efficient ways of transporting men and their equipment across the country. Both sides recognise the need to keep the lines intact if they are to successfully launch a counter-attack after being forced to retreat. Compared to the armoured trains of the Russian Civil War and WWII, the armoured trains of the Second English Civil War are better armoured, with reactive armour the norm, ATGWs and AA missiles backed up with auto-cannons being the usual armament. They carry armed troops and light scout vehicles. In some cases horses are used, instead of vehicles, for reconnaissance of the line ahead of the train. The armoured train of 1998 is a force to be reckoned with, only really vulnerable to airpower.
Wargaming The Second English Civil War
Though the probability of such a war happening is virtually nil, (or is it, did you see ‘A Very British Coup’?), it does provide a rationale for a new period for wargamers in which the forces can be seen to be on almost equal terms. (One of the annoying things about other Twentieth Century periods is the dissimilarity between the opposing sides).
Actions can be as large or as small as you like: tank battles across Salisbury Plain or a street-clearing action involving a few soldiers per side.
Troop types and units can be as varied or as colourful as you wish. Colour is somewhat missing from many modern war-games. Equipment is not restricted to just British equipment; European and American arms are in use. And in the case of European, this could include ex-Warsaw Pact equipment. Jury-rigged and militarised civilian vehicles play their part in the conflict, as does the re-emergence of cavalry. Horses are widely used as they do not use up valuable petroleum and produce a fuel of their own, methane.
Figures and vehicles are available in all the favourite scales, 1/300th, 1/200th and 20mm from many manufacturers. Platoon 20 produce quite a few figures which are of use and include female soldiers and armed civilians. Heroics and Ros produce a WWII armoured train in 1/300th which could be converted and Insurgent Infantry and a GMC pick up, which are useful.
As I have said above, scenarios can be as diverse as you wish, but include some of the actions that can be seen regularly on the battlefields of England.
A normal tactic of the Democratic Guard is to be dropped by helicopter on or near a tactical installation and destroy it, then hold out until picked up again. However, things do not always go to plan and many a platoon has been left stuck in a town or village as Royalist troops attempt to flush them out.
Oil Rig Assault
When Scotland seceded from the Republic, Scottish militia took over the remaining oil rigs. This did not go down too well with the Government in London and troops supported by helicopters have tried to recapture many of the rigs. Originally this turned out to be pretty easy, but the militias have heavily armoured and armed them, and it is not much point using heavy weapons against them – what is the point of recapturing a burning hulk?
When armoured trains make excursions into enemy territory, backed up by light armoured vehicles, they are sometimes met by small units of tanks and other armoured vehicles and it is certain a conflict will occur. One such engagement involved the rescue of a broken down armoured train by another, whilst under attack from tanks and helicopters.
If you are looking for a period in the modern era, in which there is some equality in forces and is not the now unrealistic East-West confrontation, then the Second English Civil War is a period for you. If you don’t like a certain aspect, for instance armoured trains, don’t include it in your games. That’s the advantage of this period, it hasn’t happened so you can make changes that reflect your preferences and the models you have already.
Long live the Kingdom of Wessex!