This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross
I British Corps linked up with the beleaguered survivors of the Berlin Brigade on 01st of January. Also at the start of the Year the Chinese Government requested that British and Gurkha troops in Hong Kong were placed under Chinese command to go in to action against Soviet forces. To the annoyance of the Chinese, the British Government declined this request; UK forces remained within the Colony’s borders, where they performed a local security role, although as time went on they did begin to patrol in Chinese territory, where they were used to locate Soviet spetznaz troops operating in the Chinese countryside, a task they performed with great skill and confidence.
At home the UK mainland was the target of attacks by Soviet bombers and conventionally armed cruise missiles, which caused a number of civilian casualties and substantial damage. Amongst the hardest hit areas was East Anglia, home to a number of RAF and USAF airbases. In a controversial move the Government authorized Operation ANTONINE, the arrest of a number of people identified as possible “subversives”; although many were released after only a short period of detention, a number of those arrested would remain in custody indefinitely..
With British troops now engaged in most theatres of War, there was some discussion in Parliament about conscription, but there was little support for the proposal, particularly since the War was going relatively well for the Allies, with NATO forces advancing on most fronts. Interestingly, amongst the main opponents of conscription were the Chiefs of the Defence Staff, who were against the proposal from the outset, seeing little benefit in calling up large numbers of conscripts.
During the first three months of the year a series of covert discussions took place in Northern Ireland between representatives of the British Government and various terrorist groups from both sides of the sectarian divide. The Government made it quite clear to both the protestant and catholic paramilitaries that they were prepared to pass a series of measures including internment without trial that were meant to curtail all terrorist activity in the Province as long as war was raging in Europe. It was also made clear to the terrorist leaders during secret meetings with senior members of MI5 in Londonderry that if necessary the Security Services were prepared to take more extreme measures; everyone present at that meeting knew that they were referring to the assassination of key figures from both sides. On the 28th of March, Good Friday, the leaders of Sinn Fein announced that Republican terrorists would observe a cease fire for the duration of the War plus six months. The following day Loyalist leaders declared that they too would observe the ceasefire. In early May, with the ceasefire holding, other than a few isolated incidents which the paramilitaries dealt with internally, the British Government began the process of moving Regular Army troops based in Northern Ireland to the UK, from where they would prepare for a move to Europe. To ensure security their place was filled by a full mobilisation of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), which came under the command of the newly formed 107th (Ulster) Brigade. The mobilisation of the UDR was not without controversy, for many Republicans felt that the Regiment had an anti Catholic bias.
Unknown to the general public, the Government had also begun to take covert action to prepare for a possible nuclear attack against the UK. Under a secret plan code named Operation PERIPHERAL the country was split into eleven Civil Defence regions, each of which had primary and alternate underground command centres known as Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ). Whilst the RGHQ’s would only be fully manned if a nuclear attack was deemed imminent, during the spring small advance parties of local and central Government officials were moved to the various RGHQ’s, from where they planned for various worst case scenarios.
The Military also prepared for an attack on Britain; whilst some units began to train additional Home Service Force personnel, other detachments began to move items deemed to be of key national importance out of London and other cities to secret destinations (mostly remote locations in Wales and Scotland). These items included the Crown Jewels and the Bank of England’s gold reserves, as well as treasures held in the British Library and British Museum, including copies of the Magna Carta and the Gutenberg Bible. To avoid sparking panic amongst the population many of these movements took place under cover of darkness and in conditions of great secrecy.
In Europe British forces were in the vanguard of Operation Advent Crown, the NATO drive through Poland, which saw UK troops reach the Vistula River by July. Following Italy’s July 02nd Declaration of War against NATO other British units went into combat against Italian forces encroaching in to Southern Germany. The fighting was fierce on all fronts, and as casualties mounted the depleted ranks were made up with Reserves and Territorial troops.
In the Far East the deteriorating situation in China meant that the planned handover of the colony to Chinese control at the end of June did not take place, with British forces remaining in place and taking under command a small number of Chinese troops.
The first use of nuclear weapons in Europe came on the 9th of July, when tactical nuclear weapons were used in eastern Poland and the western Soviet Union. Operation PERIPHERAL was fully implemented, with senior members of the Royal Family and the Government dispersing to a number of secret locations throughout southern England. In China the Soviets used nuclear weapons indiscriminately, annihilating the Chinese military. Whilst Hong Kong was not targeted, there was an exodus, with many residents fleeing the Colony for the Portuguese territory of Macau, whilst others made their way into China’s Guangdong Province.
As news of the detonations was broadcast around the World a wave of panic swept across the UK with many people fleeing the cities for the perceived safety of rural areas; throughout the country there was panic buying of food, bottled water, and other essential supplies. There was also an increase in the number of protests at Greenham Common and other military bases; the authorities managed to maintain order, although increasingly large numbers of police were issued with firearms. As the summer wore on and the nuclear exchanges remained confined to the Continent many of those who had left the cities gradually began to return to their homes. In late August the Queen returned to Buckingham Palace, whilst Government Ministers also returned to London, although the RGHQ’s remained fully manned.
In Poland the escalating use of nuclear weapons had made the front lines extremely fluid, and the Warsaw Pact launched a ferocious counter attack. Heavily outnumbered, I British Corps put up a fierce resistance but was forced to gradually fall back during August and September, whilst in Southern Germany the Italians reached as far as the suburbs of Munich before they were finally halted. Many highly prized vehicles were lost however, and despite British factories being on a war footing, production of new Challengers and Warriors was insufficient to make good even a fraction of these losses.
By now the 5th Infantry Division had begun to form at Catterick in Yorkshire from units brought back from Northern Ireland and elsewhere, however casualty numbers were now far exceeding available replacements, and in early September Parliament once again discussed the subject of Conscription. Despite the opposition of a significant portion of the House a motion was passed introducing a Conscription Bill. The first call up papers were issued soon afterwards, instructing their recipients to report to basic training centres across the UK. With dire penalties threatened for those who ignored the call up, most of the recipients duly reported for duty. There were some ‘anti Draft’ riots like those in the US, but on a smaller scale and mostly at Universities, although the Universities themselves provided a large number of officer candidates. Despite the recruitment taking men from all over the country regardless of background, in early October the Guardian newspaper ran a story showing how sons of certain wealthy and influential families’ conscription papers had gone ‘missing’. The report was debunked and the newspaper issued an apology but the damage was done.
In Northern Ireland the delicate ceasefire continued to hold, and the last regular British Infantry Battalion was withdrawn from the Province in early September, moving to Catterick in preparation for deployment to Europe with the 5th Division. Only a handful of regular British troops remained in the province, mostly staff and support personnel assigned to 107th Brigade headquarters, although one Squadron of the Royal Air Force Regiment remained at RAF Aldergrove in Belfast.
Armageddon was looming however, with intelligence obtained from various sources towards the end of November indicating that an attack might be imminent. There had been several such alerts since the middle of July however, all of which had proven to be false, and not wishing to spark a panic amongst the civilian population, the Prime Minister was reluctant to order another full scale implementation of PERIPHERAL. After some discussion, it was agreed that as a precautionary measure the Royal Family would leave London for their estate at Sandringham in Norfolk, accompanied by the Home Secretary, whilst other senior members of the Government quietly left the Capital for secure locations throughout the south east of England.
On Thursday the 27th of November, a day that historians would later record as “Black Thursday”, the UK was attacked by Soviet nuclear weapons. London was the first City to be hit, being targeted by a number of devices, the first of which detonated in an airburst above the Capital at 11:14am. Some three and a half million people were killed in the initial blasts and the firestorms that raged for a week afterwards. Another million people were displaced, with many of them exposed to lethal doses of radiation that would cause them to die a lingering death in the weeks and months that followed.
In the days that followed Black Thursday the Royal Party were taken under heavy military escort from Norfolk to a secret location in southern England. Other Army units escorted surviving members of the Government to their emergency command post, a top secret underground bunker located a few miles outside High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire which had been completed in the early 1990’s. From the bunker, which was codenamed EYEGLASS, the War Cabinet passed the Emergency Powers Act, which suspended the normal procedures of Parliament and transferred much of the powers of Government to the Regional Government Headquarters. The same Act also authorised the armed forces to take action to assist the civil authorities.
Each RGHQ was headed by a Regional Commissioner, who was assisted by a staff that included civil servants and Military personnel. As other towns and cities suffered the same fate as London in the days that followed the RGHQ’s began to introduce a range of measures authorised by the Emergency Powers Act. Armed troops, many of whom were conscripts partway through their basic training, took to the streets to maintain law and order whilst other units, wearing NBC suits, began to incinerate unburied corpses in an effort to halt the spread of disease. In the north the 5th Division’s proposed move to Europe was placed on hold. Meanwhile other Army units had begun to collect those Members of Parliament who had managed to survive the attacks; by the end of the Year a number of MP’s who had not been in London on Black Thursday were under military protection at various bases throughout the country (amongst this group was the Progressive Party’s George Graham).
Food and fuel were both rationed, although this was a relatively futile measure, as supplies of both were already exhausted in many areas; the news media came under Government control; and emergency centres were set up to deal with casualties, however the sheer scale of the devastation meant that much of the Government’s planning, whilst well intentioned, was woefully inadequate. The South East in particular was swamped with displaced persons, with many thousands of people being housed in hastily erected tented camps that offered little protection against the bitter winter.
Attempts to evacuate the major cities which had not yet been targeted proved futile in many cases; many of those who could leave had already done so, blocking main road arteries and overwhelming rural communities, and the Government lacked the logistical capability to evacuate those who remained. Shortages of food and water led to unrest that soon gave way to outright rioting and looting. The police and the Army tried to control the disturbances, but for every one that they quelled another three were breaking out elsewhere. The first fatal clash between troops and rioters occurred in Glasgow two days after Black Thursday, with others soon following.
Overseas Hong Kong and Gibraltar were both targeted in late November in strikes aimed at destroying both Cities’ port facilities. Gibraltar was destroyed by a one megaton airburst, however Hong Kong was more fortunate, with the missile aimed at it missing its target by a considerable margin and exploding relatively harmlessly in the South China Sea (although a resultant tidal wave did cause extensive damage to coastal areas).
The number of civilians who had died in the nuclear attacks on the UK was well into the millions, while many more were condemned to a much slower death from radiation poisoning. In the middle of winter some regions had no water, no food, and no power, resulting in yet more deaths. Bodies were still lying unburied in some areas, causing outbreaks of diseases unknown in Britain for decades; cholera first broke out in Kent in early December and quickly spread. The poor sanitation in the refugee camps gave the disease a rich breeding ground, with the first fatalities coming within days, whilst other diseases followed.
The most devastating blow was yet to come however. On the 10th of December a Soviet missile destroyed the Government’s command post at High Wycombe. Whether by chance or design would never be known, but the missile detonated just as the War Cabinet and Heads of the Armed Forces were meeting to brief the Queen. Not only was Prime Minister Tony Blake and most of the War Cabinet killed, but perhaps more crucially so too were several senior members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and the Queen herself (although rumours would persist for some months afterwards that Prince Charles had survived the attack but suffered a major nervous breakdown). In one stroke the UK’s national leadership had been virtually decapitated (recriminations would carry on for many months afterwards as to why so many senior figures had been allowed to be in the same place at the same time; in truth, British Intelligence had believed EYEGLASS’s existence to be secret, and in doing so had seriously underestimated the capabilities of their Soviet counterparts, who had learnt of its existence and location several years previously).
The most senior member of the Government to survive was Home Secretary Douglas Montgomery, who had been attending a meeting at Army Headquarters in Salisbury. Fearing the effect that it would have on national morale, Montgomery instructed that the death of the Queen be kept secret from the general population. He succeeded for two days before the news leaked out, at which point it spread like wildfire despite the absence of any conventional media outlets. The consequences were exactly what Montgomery had feared – the loss of the figurehead of their Queen had a devastating effect on the British people, accelerating a headlong surge in to total anarchy.
The strands that held UK society together were unravelling with ever increasing swiftness, and as the Year drew to a close the outlook for many was bleak. In many areas the rule of law collapsed. On Christmas Eve local commanders ordered the withdrawal of all police and military personnel from Birmingham, effectively conceding control of the City to the mobs, many of whom had managed to arm themselves with weapons taken from the police or other troops who had been overrun. By the end of the year the Government had lost control of much of the West Midlands and large parts of Manchester were under a dusk to dawn curfew, with violators risking being shot on sight by the Army. With the situation at home rapidly deteriorating, two Territorial Battalions had to be brought back from Germany to help enforce order.
When news of the Queen’s death spread to Northern Ireland it sparked off ten days of rioting that shattered the delicate ceasefire as Nationalist Catholic and Loyalist Protestant communities clashed. The authorities attempted to restore order, however earlier misgivings amongst Catholics resurfaced almost immediately, with many claiming that the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment were focusing their attentions on Catholics whilst turning a blind eye to the activities of the Protestant groups. Whilst the British vehemently denied any allegations of bias, large parts of Belfast and Londonderry as well as several areas on the border with the Irish Republic were in open revolt. With both sides carrying out atrocities against each other, on the 20th of December rumours began to surface of an alleged massacre carried out by UDR soldiers near the border town of Armagh and leaders of Catholic communities in the area appealed for help from the Republic of Ireland. The following day troops from the Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Defence Forces of the Irish Republic, crossed the border into Northern Ireland. By year’s end Southern Irish troops had occupied parts of the Border Counties of Armagh and Fermanagh, where they were welcomed as liberators by Nationalists, while further north the Cities of Belfast and Londonderry were both witness to bitter street fighting between Protestant and Catholic groups.