1919: Britain’s Year of Revolution

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about an alternate history, called The 1919 British Revolution.

As well as looking at the general feeling of discontent across the country I did focus on an incident in Glasgow.

In Great Britain the government feared a bolshevik uprising and was quick to oppress any potential threat to the established order. One of the biggest areas for concern were the labour movements and trade unions. One strike in Glasgow in 1919 eventually resulted in a street battle between strikers and police, which was so bad, the army was called in. The “Battle of George Square”, also known as “Bloody Friday” and “Black Friday”, was one of the most intense riots in the history of Glasgow; it took place on Friday, 31 January 1919. Clashes between the City of Glasgow Police and protesters broke out, prompting the War Cabinet to make soldiers available to the civil power, to prevent the violence from escalating.

I also saw this post the first of a series of blog posts.

In future blog posts I want to have a look at potential battles in the 1919 British Revolution and the forces involved.

I did start thinking about possible scenarios and forces. I have in the cupboard the boxed set of Battlefront’s 15mm The Great War Mitchell’s Marauders.

Mitchell's Marauders (GBRAB1)

The boxed set includes one Company HQ, two Rifle Platoons, one Machine-gun Platoon, one Royal Artillery Gun Detachment. It also has one Medium Tank Platoon comprising a single Mark A Whippet and a Heavy Tank Platoon which is two Mark IV tanks.

I was thinking that this would be a good starting force for the 1919 British Revolution.

In my original blog post I used a couple of contemporary photographs, one was of the tanks, Medium Mark C tanks, and soldiers at the Glasgow Cattle Market in the Gallowgate waiting to be called in for action in Glasgow. The other photograph though was a Mark IV tank on the streets of Dublin.

British army tank in Dublin

I realised that I wanted to do some more research into this era and as you do went to Google. As well as finding more photographs from the era I also discovered that there was a book about a range of incidents across 1919.

1919; Britain’s Year of Revolution tells the story of an almost unknown passage in British history. On the August Bank Holiday that year, the government in London despatched warships to the northern city of Liverpool in an overwhelming show of force. Thousands of troops, backed by tanks, had been trying without success to suppress disorder on the streets. Earlier that year in London, 1000 soldiers had marched on Downing Street, before being disarmed by a battalion of the Grenadier Guards loyal to the government. In Luton that summer, the town hall was burned down by rioters, before the army was brought in to restore order and in Glasgow, artillery and tanks were positioned in the centre of the city to deter what the Secretary of State for Scotland described as a ‘Bolshevik uprising’. Industrial unrest and mutiny in the armed forces combined together to produce the fear that Britain was facing the same kind of situation which had led to the Russian Revolution two years earlier. Drawing chiefly upon contemporary sources, this book describes the sequence of events which looked as though they might be the precursor to a revolution along the lines of those sweeping across Europe at that time. To some observers, it seemed only a matter of time before Britain transformed itself from a constitutional monarchy into a Soviet Republic.

Well time to buy that from Amazon then.

Land Rover Centaurs in Wessex

The Laird Centaur was the brainchild of Laird (Angelsey) Limited and was the result of intensive engineering development combining the Land Rover and the Alvis designed tracks of the FV101 Scorpion light tank. 

Many years ago I wrote and had published an article in Wargames Illustrated called Wessex: The Second English Civil War.

Wessex: The Second English Civil War

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. The Republican Prime Minister 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.

My recent blog post on the Laird Centaur Half Track and their proposed different versions got me thinking about what if the Laird Centaur Half Track was a commercial and military success and was used extensively by both sides in the Wessex Civil War.

In the marketing materials they did advertise an armoured version. This got me thinking about scenarios involving an Armoured Laird Centaur Half Track in Wessex.

A Democratic Guard patrol on the M4 near Reading, comprising three Armoured Laird Centaur Half Tracks and a Scorpion Light Tank is ambushed by Royalist Special Forces. The objective of the ambush is to disable the vehicles and then withdraw.

Royal Marines Armoured Laird Centaur Half Tracks are guarding the entrance to the 40 Commando Royal Marines base at Norton Manor Camp. There then follows an assault by Republican paratroopers to rescue POWs being held at the camp.

A Royalist convoy, with Laird Centaur Half Tracks is approaching Gloucester when it is ambushed by a force of Democratic Guards using light scout vehicles, motorbikes and a single Armoured Laird Centaur Half Track.

Democratic Guards using Laird Centaur Half Tracks are landed on the beaches of North Somerset by landing craft, to sabotage the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. Local royalist forces rush to defend the power station and push the Democratic Guards back into the Bristol Channel.

I’ve not found any models of the Laird Centaur, but I do remember once an article in a magazine about how to convert a 1/76th version using the (then) JB Models Land Rover and Scorpion models. Both kits are now available from Airfix.

Centurion Mk I

One tank that did interest me at Bovington was the Centurion Mk I.

Centurion Mk I

The Centurion was the primary British main battle tank of the post-Second World War period. Introduced in 1945, it is widely considered to be one of the most successful post-war tank designs, remaining in production into the 1960s, and seeing combat in the front lines into the 1980s.

Development of the Centurion began in 1943 with manufacture beginning in January 1945. Six prototypes arrived in Belgium less than a month after the war in Europe ended in May 1945, so too late to see action.

Of course in any alternative history scenario where the war continued after May 1945 in Europe, the Centurion Mk I would have seen action. Likewise in a another alternative history scenario where either Stalin decided to press West after defeating Nazi Germany to take over Western Europe, or the Western Allies decided to “liberate” Eastern Europe from the yoke of Stalin’s communist oppression, again the Centurion Mk I would have seen action.

I remember when Battlefront put up the details about their 15mm Australian Mk5 Centurion for Vietnam. I wrote the following thought:

My first thought when I saw the Centurion Mk5 was how close was it to the early versions, could I get away with using it for my Late War British forces in say a 1946 scenario? Only a handful of Mk1s were made when in November 1945 the Mk2 started coming off the production lines. The Mk3 did not enter production until 1948, so for a 1946 scenario, it would be the Mk2. The main difference between the Mk5 and the Mk2 would the main weapon, with the Mk5 having the L7 105mm gun, whilst the 1945 version had the QF 20 pdr. Though it would appear from the Battlefront site that the Australian Army Centurions were armed with the QF 20 pdr.

Simon in a comment in response, said:

Nice thought, but too many differences. For a start, different turret shape: no bustle, smaller, different-shaped stowage bins. No long-range fuel tank on the back, completely different engine deck. The ANZAC Mk V had a 105mm gun, the 20pdr had no fume-extractor and no muzzle-brake. These are just off the top of my head! However, if it’s a what-if scenario, who cares?

You can now get a 15mm Centurion MkI from Butlers’ Printed Models.

15mm Centurion MkI

Ah the wonders of 3D printing.

The Centurion actually first first entered combat with the British Army in the Korean War in 1950, in support of the UN forces.

Peerless Armoured Car

A rather dark photograph of mine of the Peerless Armoured Car at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Peerless Armoured Car

During the First World War, sixteen American Peerless trucks were modified by the British to serve as armoured cars. These were relatively primitive designs with open backs, armed with a Pom-pom gun and a machine gun, and were delivered to the British army in 1915.

After the war, a new design was needed to replace armoured cars that had been worn out. As a result, the Peerless Armoured Car design was developed in 1919. It was based on the chassis of the Peerless three ton lorry, with an armoured body built by the Austin Motor Company.

Here is a better lit photograph of the Peerless Armoured Car at Bovington from Wikimedia.

Peerless Armoured Car
Simon Q from United Kingdom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Poor off-road performance hampered the vehicle but it still saw considerable service, notably in Ireland. A few were still in service with the British at the start of the Second World War. Seven were in service with the Irish National Army during the Irish Civil War and used by the Irish Defence Forces up until 1932.

This photo appeared in the Sunday Independent on 13 August 1922, with the caption: “A Dangerous Corner – This photograph was taken in one of the towns captured during the past week by the National Army. It shows an amoured car “manoeuvring for position” at the end of a street facing the post office. Irregulars occupy the further end of the street, and are being quickly dislodged by infantry supported by the armoured car.”

Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922
Peerless Armoured Car in Cork in 1922 – National Library of Ireland on The Commons [No restrictions]
These armoured cars would have been used in the world of A Very British Civil War. They would also make ideal vehicles for the concept of the 1919 British Revolution I talked about in this blog post.

The Man in the High Castle Video Effects Breakdown

I am looking forward to the last season of The Man in the High Castle.

One of the highlights of the series so far has been the way in which the seres makers have created a world different, but eerily similar to our own.

The video effects are quite amazing, and when you see how it was done, you realise how much time and effort went into creating this alternate world.

Here are some more video effects shots from season 2.

And from season 3.

In a previous blog post I discussed the series, which I started watching having “splashed” out on the free trial of Amazon Prime to get some Christmas gifts delivered quickly. Having got Amazon Prime,  I took the opportunity to watch what was then the new Amazon series The Man in the High Castle.

Will it be the end of the worlds as we know it?

The Man in the High Castle Season 4 comes to Amazon Prime this Autumn.

The final season of The Man in the High Castle will be rocked by war and revolution. The Resistance becomes a full-blown rebellion, driven by Juliana Crain’s (Alexa Davalos) visions of a better world. A new Black insurgent movement emerges to fight the forces of Nazism and imperialism. As empires teeter, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel De La Fuente) will find himself torn between his duty to his country and the bonds of family. Meanwhile, Reichsmarschall John Smith (Rufus Sewell) will be drawn towards the portal the Nazis have built to another universe, and the tantalizing possibility of stepping through a gateway to the path not taken.

I have enjoyed the first three seasons of The Man in the High Castle and I am looking forward to this final season.

You can get a free trial of Amazon Prime.

Dangerous Visions

So there I was driving my car listening to Radio 4 and what did I hear but a drama about a modern civil war in a disintegrating United Kingdom, called Dangerous Visions.

Martin Jameson’s five-part drama draws on detailed research to create a compelling account of the consequences of a UK civil war.

It was back in the 1990s at the height of the disintegration of Yugoslavia that I started writing about the concept of a modern English Civil War.

In my background, a fall into dictatorship resulted in an uprising by regional groups and the break up of the United Kingdom. For me the Kingdom of Wessex was the main protagonist against a fascist London based government.

In Martin Jameson’s drama, the story focuses on a family from Manchester attempting to survive the disintegration of the country, secession, armed paramilitary groups, soldiers attacking civilians, local warlords protecting their communities, atrocities and many other awful aspects taken from the experiences of the Balkans.

The background follows how the United Kingdom in a post-Brexit world starts to have power cuts, food shortages and civil disturbance. A London based government attempts to force their draconian policies on a discontented population.

FV107 Scimitar

We see Scotland declare UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) and the British Army move into to secure the nuclear submarine base at Faslane.

The North of the country fed up with not being listened to, whilst not quite declaring independence certainly feels that they need to openly fight the London (or Greater England) government.

The resulting conflict appears to be small scale, though Government forces do shell northern cities and use aircraft to bomb them.

Wales appears to become a hotbed of Welsh nationalism, broken into small enclaves led by local warlords, who ensure any English civilians and refugees are forced out of Wales.

Across the country armed warbands, soldiers and eventually UN peacekeepers mingle with refugees attempting to keep their families together. Reminiscent of what could happen to the UK if it fell apart like the Balkans did in the 1990s.

Overall it is an interesting listen, but it is a story about a family in an interesting background.

I was able to download all the episodes and at the time of writing you have fifteen days left to do so on the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

The 1919 British Revolution

Across Europe in the early part of the 20th Century many of the nation states were undergoing change or violent revolution. The governments of the time were so concerned about this that resources were diverted to focus on the perceived threat of revolutionaries and paramilitary forces.

The 1917 Russian Revolution eventually led to the Communist USSR as well as a Civil War that raged for years with plenty of intervention by the Western powers.

In Germany following their defeat in 1918 led to the creation of the Weimar Republic that was plagued by political extremism. In addition that time saw both left wing and right wing paramilitaries causing problems for the government.

The capitulation and break up of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire also saw rises in nationalism and revolution.

In Great Britain the government feared a bolshevik uprising and was quick to oppress any potential threat to the established order. One of the biggest areas for concern were the labour movements and trade unions. One strike in Glasgow in 1919 eventually resulted in a street battle between strikers and police, which was so bad, the army was called in.

The “Battle of George Square”, also known as “Bloody Friday” and “Black Friday”, was one of the most intense riots in the history of Glasgow; it took place on Friday, 31 January 1919.

Clashes between the City of Glasgow Police and protesters broke out, prompting the War Cabinet to make soldiers available to the civil power, to prevent the violence from escalating.

Medium Mark C tanks and soldiers at the Glasgow Cattle Market in the Gallowgate

With troops and tanks on the streets of Glasgow, peace was eventually restored, but there were concerns that some of the soldiers might go over to the side of the rioters, could that have been the spark that started a British Revolution?

The fear of the soldiers siding with the protestors was so much that the War Department didn’t want any Glaswegian troops sent to quell the violence, incase they changed sides. Though reports later implied that English troops were sent, more recent research has indicated that it was Scottish troops that were sent to Glasgow. However what if English troops were sent and the situation rather than be defused, escalated into a more violent conflict. Would the conflict bring in local paramilitary forces, some fighting for the establishment and some fighting for change? Another potential spark for a British Revolution?

British army tank in Dublin

In future blog posts I want to have a look at potential battles in the 1919 British Revolution and the forces involved.

SS-GB

SS-GB

Adapted from Len Deighton’s 1978 alternate history novel, and starring Sam Riley and Kate Bosworth, SS-GB premieres on BBC One on the 19th February 2017.

Produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd and written by Bafta Award-winners Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, SS-GB is a complex thriller focusing on British Detective Douglas Archer.

Forced to work under the brutal SS in occupied London, Archer is determined to continue to do his job in the service of his country, but against impossible odds.

We first meet Archer in 1941, with the vast majority of England and Wales are under Nazi occupation after losing the Battle of Britain. Pockets of resistance continue to show their defiance against the occupying German forces, but after a German pilot is murdered by a British Resistance fighter, tensions in London could not be higher.

When investigating what appears to be a simple black market murder, Archer is dragged into a much darker and more treacherous world where the stakes are as high as the ultimate outcome of the war. The elusive American journalist Barbara Barga may hold the key – but can he trust her? And when his lover Sylvia endangers her life by bravely making a stand against the oppressive regime, Archer is forced to confront a deeper dilemma. Can he carry out his duty to defend law and order when he is working for the wrong side? What is he willing to risk in the fight against fascism?

The trailer and the images released so far, show a disturbing image of London under Nazi occupation. What may have happened if the proposed Operation Sealion was successful and Britain had lost the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Though most experts agree that there was little or no chance of Operation Sealion ever succeeding, many people have wondered and extrapolated what could have happened if it had indeed taken place and the Germans were victorious.

The background of SS-GB offers a range of gaming scenarios across different kinds of actions and scales. I may explore these in a later post once I have viewed the first few episodes.

Heer 1946

One of the games at the wargames show at Bovington that I did a good look at was this 15mm 1946 game complete with a range of alternate German and Allied tanks that were designed, but either were too late for action, or never got further than the drawing board. I have to admit I never got round to checking what actual models were represented on the table, but there were E-100 and E-50 tanks as well as Panther IIs.

This photograph shows a Sarissa Precision Factory. I really do like this model (and the huge one for 28mm too). Around it are finished and partly finished tanks of a variety of types.

IMG_2910c

A large tank on a railway wagon. The table also had a lot of HO 1/87th scale buildings that did not seem out of place on the table. There are a range of HO buildings that would be ideal for 15mm games, especially those of the industrial variety.

IMG_2910b

Here is another Sarissa Precision factory with a couple of JagdTigers outside. As with the other, it looks like the RAF has been busy trying to stem the production of these new German tanks.

IMG_2910a

Here is a overview of the table. There were TT scale trains, wagons and track (which are just about an appropriate scale for 15mm).

IMG_2910

In the box to the side of the tables were 15mm models of the Black Prince, the Tortoise and Centurion Mk1 tanks.

Tortoise

All of these could be found (for real) in the Tank Museum itself.