Edinburgh - Orkney Wargames
"Utter Bloody Nonsense"
1938: A Very British Civil War
Wargaming an alternative history of Britain
I first heard about this "utter bloody nonsense" (as I put it) from my wargaming friend Colin Jack. Colin loves any period that seems a little out of the ordinary. This is a man who runs games involving Cadillacs and dinosaurs, all-woman pirate crews and Victorian explorers on Mars. This is therefore right up his street. Set in Britain during the late 1930s this is an "alternative history" period, which effectively means that anyone can pretty much make things up as they go along. I've resisted involvement in this for ages, arguing that the inter-war period had enough colourful real campaigns/ I cited the Spanish Civil War and Abyssinia as prime examples. However Colin talked me into playing a couple of games, and despite my curmudgeonly reservations I found I enjoyed myself. Then, when I was searching round for a joint period which the Orkney and Shetland wargame clubs could play I learned that A Very British Civil War (or VBCW for short) was big in Shetland. That got me thinking - what unpainted kit did I have which I could use if we - the Orkney wargamers - travelled north for a joint game? I had some unpainted WW1 Austro-Hungarians, and they could easily be turned into Norwegian Interventionists. I also had some WW1 British sailors, and some WW2 British. From these roots grew the germ of a strange new period... and I stopped calling it "utter bloody nonsense". Anything that injects fun into wargaming gets my vote...
The Basic Premise:
When King George V died in early1936 he was succeeded by his playboy eldest son Edward, who became King Edward VIII. In real life he abdicated that December, so he could marry Wallis Simpson. In this alternative timeline he refused to abdicate, and in May 1937 he married her. This flew in the face of advice from both church and state, and the stand-off between the king and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin only came to an end in 1937, when the government resigned. Parliament was eventually dissolved - ripped apart by the ensuing constitutional crisis. Edward was an admirer of Herr Hitler and other extreme right-wingers, and so in January 1938 he invited Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists to become his Prime Minister. For many this was a step too far. Opposition formed around the Anglican League - a confederation of churchmen, disgruntled parliamentarians and left-of-centre political groups. When striking and rioting ensued the king ordered the army to restore order, assisted by Moseley's Facist auxiliaries. The Anglican League took up arms to defend itself, as did a whole assortment of politically-inspired militias, local defence volunteers and other militant groups. The Scots (or most of them) seceded from the Union, and formed their own Republic. Similar nationalist stirrings were taking place in Wales, Cornwall and Northern Ireland. By the spring of 1938 the British people found themselves at war with each other - the first time the country had degenerated into Civil War for 300 years.
Well, so much for the background. I've played several VBCW games with Colin Jack over the past few years, who set his fighting in the Borders. Most of it centred around clashes between the army of the breakaway Scottish Republic and the Royalist (pro-King Edward) troops of the English Northern Army. However, I never took it on as a period, but was happy to lend Colin any relevant figures I had to beef up his growing collection of VBCW forces. This fictitious "period" has a clear appeal - the units can be quite colourful, the tanks and vehicles are funky, and there's a certain charm in fighting over familiar British countryside - particularly your own patch of it. What finally tipped me over the edge though was that e-mail exchange with Mike McEwen of the Thule Gamers - the wargame club in Shetland. We were planning a weekend of gaming where the wargamers of Orkney and Shetland join forces, and one of his two games was a VBCW one set in Shetland. It seemed rude to go up there without taking some figures, so I began thinking up what they might be. In the end I landed up concocting a VBCW alternative timeline set in Orkney. Thanks to Mike I've started on what might be a very slippery and expensive wargaming path!
At the moment I'm still raising forces, but soon I plan to stage my first VBCW game set in Orkney. It'll be a clash between the Albertine defenders of the Home Fleet and the Royalist forces who hold the Orkney mainland, so watch this space! For rules we'll probably use Triumph & Tragedy - they're the ones Colin Jack uses - but in Shetland they use their own VBCW version of Warhammer's Wild West rules.
The VBCW in Orkney
For Orkney games see Journal 74 & Journal 82
For other VBCW Games, see:
Journal 28 Journal 30 Journal 31 Journal 33 Journal 35 Journal 47 Journal 48 Journal 50 Journal 56 & Journal 81
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