This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross

West Midlands

9. West Midlands


RGHQ: Swynnerton, nr Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire


Alternate RGHQ: Lawford Heath, nr Rugby, Warwickshire


Counties: Hereford and Worcester, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands


Nuclear Targets: Coventry, Hereford, Wolverhampton


Large numbers of people fled the Cities of the West Midlands at the end of 1997. This led to a number of violent clashes between locals and refugees during 1998 and 1999, with a number of towns falling into the hands of unlawful groups. Many towns are now heavily fortified, whilst the countryside is ravaged by several large marauder groups. With resources becoming ever scarcer, some of these groups have begun to drift into other areas in search of fresh pickings.


The West Midlands


A heavily urbanised conurbation with a population of over two and a half million people before the War, the County of West Midlands comprised the Cities of Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton. The region was home to a number of UK and international companies, particularly from the automobile industry; Land Rover's main production facility was nine miles southeast of Birmingham City Centre in Solihull (since the start of 1997 virtually all of the factory's production was dedicated to military needs) whilst Jaguars were manufactured at the company's Castle Bromwich site six miles east of the city centre (during World War 2 Castle Bromwich had been an aircraft manufacturing facility, building many of the Royal Air Force's Spitfires).


Surprisingly, Birmingham, the largest City in the UK outside London, was not directly targeted by Soviet nuclear weapons in either 1997 or 1998. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) the City suffered a complete collapse of law and order at the end of 1997 when the authorities, hopelessly outnumbered and having already lost large swathes of the city to the mobs, decided to withdraw all troops and police to prevent them from being overrun (whilst most Army units obeyed and pulled out, a number of police officers, most of whom lived in the same communities that were being abandoned, disobeyed the order and stayed put) . Though not targeted by the Soviets, rioting and looting has taken its toll on Birmingham, and much of the City is now burned out ruins that are home to some 100,000 people; whilst a small number of organised and lawful enclaves still exist, much of Birmingham is now ruled by a number of different gangs, each of which controls their own area. Several of the gangs have their origins in the hooligan gangs that supported the City’s pre War football teams, whilst others have been formed along racial or religious grounds, and the City has suffered from “ethnic cleansing” with different groups being forced out of certain areas.


The major gangs number well into the hundreds, and are armed with a makeshift collection of melee weapons augmented by a handful of civilian and military firearms (the latter having been taken from Territorial and HSF troops at the end of 1997). Ammunition for these weapons is generally extremely limited. Raids between different gangs are commonplace. Clashes are extremely violent, with no mercy shown; a gang member captured alive by another gang will generally be killed (usually slowly and painfully), although some prisoners are kept alive, either to carry out slave labour or to serve as "amusement" (for males this usually involves fighting to the death in gladiatorial style bouts, whilst female prisoners will be gang raped by their captors).


One such group, the VC, led by a man named Mark Lindsay and formed around a hard core of hooligans that followed one of Birmingham's two premiership football clubs before the War, is gradually beginning to gain the ascendancy however. This is due in no small part to the fact that they are being assisted by a man named Chris Bolton, an MI5 officer who entered Birmingham with two others at the start of 2000 with instructions to report on the situation in the City but instead formed an alliance with the VC, betraying his two colleagues in the process. Based on Bolton's reports, HMG has unwittingly supplied the VC with a small amount of weapons and ammunition (believing they were supplying a lawful group), and whilst the quantity of weapons supplied was relatively small, it was more than enough to make the VC the most heavily armed group in Birmingham, a fact that they have been using to their full advantage in the brutal and violent struggle for control of the City.

Aston University


Aston University is located in territory controlled by the VC, who are holding captive a number of members of the faculty and students. Of particular interest to the VC's leadership is the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, which has a number of intact engineering workshops and chemistry labs, and several students are being forced to work on producing mortars and improvised chemical weapons. So far these efforts have been largely unsuccessful (thanks in no small part to stalling by the students) but Lindsay and Bolton are both running out of patience, and the captives have been threatened with dire consequences if they do not produce something soon.

Staffordshire


Much of the southern part of Staffordshire descended into chaos in late 1997 as waves of refugees entered the area following the destruction of Wolverhampton and Coventry, and the area remains dangerous, with numerous marauder gangs infesting the countryside.


Further north the towns of Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme are garrisoned by approximately four hundred troops, many of whom regrouped in Stoke following the withdrawal from Birmingham at the end of 1997. Just over two thirds are survivors of several different Territorial Infantry Battalions (mostly the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, but also including men and women from the Territorial Battalions of the Cheshire Regiment, the King's Own Royal Border Regiment, and even the Royal Regiment of Wales), whilst the remainder belong to various support Corps. The troops are well armed with standard British military small arms, including several GPMG's, 84 mm Carl Gustav rocket launchers, and 51mm and 81mm mortars. They have a good supply of small arms ammunition, much of it "requisitioned" from the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radway Green in Cheshire, and also have a number of military vehicles, mostly Land Rovers and Bedford trucks, but also including three FV721 Fox armoured cars of the Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry. The large military presence has ensured that both towns remain secure and the Army controls a number of sites, including the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, a major teaching hospital in Stoke, and the campus of Keele University in Newcastle, although the troops rarely patrol any further than a few miles outside the towns and several tented "cities" have sprung up on the borders of the area controlled by the military.


The troops are under the command of forty four year old Brigadier Richard Woodley. A regular Army officer late of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Woodley was assigned to the Regional Government Headquarters at Swynnerton, a few miles outside Stoke in mid 1997, and found himself the senior officer in the region at the start of 1998. He has claimed authority over the whole area on behalf of His Majesty's Government, but is secretly working towards his own agenda, subtly expanding his power base. He is supported by a small group of soldiers and civilians, most notably a man named Ian Price, a former Civil Servant who held the position of Director of Communications at the RGHQ, and who is behind rumours spreading through the region that the Central Government has ceased to exist. With no conventional media outlets to counter these rumours and with the enclave out of radio contact with UKLF in Salisbury (Woodley sabotaged their last operational long range radio some months ago), their strategy has proven to be quite effective, with many of the soldiers in Stoke now believing that they are effectively on their own.

Coventry and Wolverhampton were not so fortunate, with both hit by Soviet nuclear strikes during December 1997. Many of both Cities' inhabitants had already fled into the surrounding Counties, however the death toll from the strikes themselves and the subsequent fallout, disease, and civil disorder would reach well over a million. Small numbers of survivors linger in each City, trying to scratch out an existence amongst the rubble, and what remains of Wolverhampton is controlled by a gang who (somewhat unoriginally) call themselves the Wolves (Wolves was a commonly used nickname for the City's football club, Wolverhampton Wanderers before the War). The Wolves' rule is harsh and brutal, although they are relatively poorly armed, relying mainly on melee weapons augmented by a handful of firearms for which they have virtually no ammunition.

Coventry Cathedral


Built in the late 14th and early 15th Centuries, Coventry Cathedral was virtually destroyed on the night of 14 November 1940 when over 500 Luftwaffe bombers attacked the City of Coventry, with only the tower, spire, the outer wall and the bronze effigy and tomb of its first bishop surviving. After the War a new Cathedral was built next to the remains of the old one, which were left as they were as a memorial. When the warhead from a Soviet SS17 ICBM detonated 3,500 metres above Coventry at 1030GMT on Wednesday 03 December 1997 both old and new Cathedrals were obliterated in a split second.

Alton Towers


Located twelve miles east of Stoke on Trent, before the War Alton Towers was the UK's most visited theme park, with several million visitors a year experiencing attractions such as the Nemesis and Corkscrew roller coasters. The Park opened as normal in March 1997 (it closed from November - March each year), and whilst it briefly saw an increase in visitor numbers as people sought ways to escape the War, even if only for a day, it closed during the second half of June following the use of nuclear weapons in Europe and never reopened. Covering 800 acres, the site appears deserted, although it is rumoured that the miles of hidden tunnels under the attractions are inhabited by a small number of deranged survivors who live a feral existence.

Warwickshire


Before the War the majority of Warwickshire's population lived in the north and centre of the county, whilst the south is largely rural and more sparsely populated. Historically major industries included coal mining, textiles, engineering, and cement production, but these were all in decline by the mid 1990's being replaced by distribution centres, light to medium industry, and services. Tourism also played a major part in the county's economy, particularly the towns of Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford Upon Avon, famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare.


Like Staffordshire, Warwickshire also suffered due to its proximity to the West Midlands conurbation, with large numbers of refugees entering the northern part of the county from Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Coventry at the end of 1997 and there is no effective order in the region. Several towns have effectively been taken over by refugees, who forced out the former occupants, and violent clashes between different groups are commonplace, particularly in the area bordering what remains of Coventry, whilst the southern part of the county lies within the area terrorised by Bandito Yankee, a powerful and well armed Oxfordshire based marauder group made up largely of US Air Force deserters.



The Welsh Border


The Welsh border counties of Shropshire and Hereford and Worcester were largely rural before the War, with agriculture forming the area's major economy. particularly meat and dairy farming. The area was home to several military supply facilities before the War, most notably the Ministry of Defence site at Donnington, which was one of the largest military stores in Western Europe, whilst only a few miles from Donnington, Telford based Chequers Food manufactured ration packs for the military. The Army stripped Donnington of virtually anything useful at the end of 1997 and start of 1998 and the site is now an empty shell but that does not stop scavenging parties paying it the occasional visit in a futile search for anything of value, whilst a commonly heard rumour in the area is that there are warehouses packed with 24 hour ration packs.


The region only suffered one nuclear strike during the exchanges, when the town of Hereford was destroyed by a Soviet nuclear missile in December 1997 (Hereford had no major strategic targets, although it was the pre War home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the British Army's Special Forces, however by the time of the nuclear strike virtually the entire Regiment was deployed on operations worldwide and only a few dozen personnel remained at Hereford, most of whom operated in a support role). In the immediate aftermath of the 1997 exchanges the region was caught between two waves of large scale refugee movements as people poured out of the cities of the West Midlands and South Wales seeking the perceived safety of the countryside, leading to a number of clashes between locals and refugees. The eastern part of the region is largely controlled by groups of refugees and marauders (or, frequently, an amalgamation of the two), particularly the area bordering on Birmingham. Whilst no one group can claim to be the dominant force, one of the most feared marauder groups in the area are the Headhunters, a group made up mainly of refugees from Birmingham, who are based in a village several miles north of Worcester and use it as a base to raid small towns and villages throughout the region. Led by a man named Stephen Lloyd, the Headhunters are slowly emerging as the dominant force in the area, with several smaller groups having been incorporated into their ranks. The group’s second in command is Lloyd’s eighteen year old daughter Cheryl. They are aptly named - Lloyd has the severed heads of those who have crossed him mounted on poles in the village square.


Closer to the Welsh border conditions are more stable, consisting of a  number of small villages and towns, most of which have become heavily fortified and are self sufficient in terms of food production. The border with Wales remains closed, with detachments of troops from the Army of Wales occupying a number of fortified positions along the border from where they ensure that refugees and marauders do not cross. Oswestry in Shropshire, five miles inside England, is currently occupied by a detachment of Welsh troops, although it is a relatively benign occupation, with the locals being quite glad of the protection that the Welsh soldiers provide from marauders. Many communities close to the border manage to produce a small surplus and regular markets takes place in Oswestry and the town of Ludlow where farmers meet to trade goods. The Welsh troops guarantee the security of the Oswestry market, which is usually well attended by traders from North Wales who move across the border with the approval of the Welsh Assembly Government, thus making the Oswestry market a conduit into Wales itself.