Spotlight: State of Emergency
or Britain in the Winter of '79
Britain in the '70s and '80s was, to say the least, a turbulent time: The Troubles, the Brixton (and Toxteth and Bristol and...) Riots, the Miners' Strikes...
TV and print media would be full of images of soldiers patrolling streets of terraced housing that could have been anywhere from Belfast to Bristol to Blackburn, or mounted police riding charging striking coal miners. Schools held bomb threat drills, and switchboard operators would receive ominous warnings and codewords...
In the early '70s in the face of economic strain, union strikes and IRA bombing campaigns, retired Army Officers would organise private armies and the Government of the day made plans for emergency rule, state requisition of media outlets, and stockpiling of food and fuel. In the words of one conspirator of the time, "[England] was no longer a green and pleasant land". The Heath government declared an official State of Emergency no less than five times in its four year existence, and in January 1974, when Heath was in dispute with the miners, the army was deployed at Heathrow airport.
In the immediate aftermath of the 1974 general election that saw Labour come to power, "fairly senior" Army officers would talk of military intervention. Later that year the army would be mobilised a number of times without the Wilson government having been warned, and one of his aides would grimly joke how they often discussed whether "the guns would be trained on us from Horse Guards Parade".
Whilst Wilson's government had seen danger in the Army, advisors to Thatcher's new Government saw danger from the left. Papers released from the National Archives suggest government advisors feared that the race riots of the early '80s were organised in advance by criminal elements, and that those involved were ready to use an arsenal of deadly weapons. In the aftermath of the 1985 riots one memo to the Prime Minister claimed that criminal elements and 'outside agitators' from the far left had been involved in fanning the flames of disorder. After the earlier riots in '81, one advisor wrote: "I wonder to what extent any organised element in the Toxteth riots might have been and inspired by the city's Irish contingent. The balaclava masks were very reminiscent of Northern Ireland."
During this period, Britain was a country undergoing great social and economic change, a powder keg awaiting a spark. A spark that thankfully never happened in real life, but one that could easily be imagined on the wargaming table. Private armies of mercenaries? Squaddies on the streets? Soviet agents landed by submarine? American MPs deployed to guard the PX? Mrs Goggins defending the Greendale Post Office with a Webley under the counter?
A great resource for ideas is Mark Hannan's "Winter of '79" blog, which was ultimately the inspiration for this range of 28mm figures.
So how do you game the Winter of '79 (or indeed Northern Ireland inspired games)?
- Check out: 'WINTER OF ’79 – LIVING ON THE FRONT LINE' by Mark Hannam, Matthew Sparkes & Mike Bradford and released by Caliver/Partizan Press.
- Alternatives to try include 'Cold War 1983' or 'Normandy Firefight' for rural skirmishes.
Us! Naturally! But it would be remiss of us not to also point you in the direction of:
- Caliver's new line of 28mm, Crooked Dice, Gripping Beast's MoFo Falklands range, Mongrel Miniatures (if you can get hold of any), and Killer B Games amongst others - eg SpaceVixensFromMars do a useful looking Queen Liz II.
Not us, yet, so try:
- CompanyB does a (Rhodesian) Series III Landrover
- Sloppy Jalopy for a 1/56 scale civilian van, Humber Pig, and Ferret amongst other Cold War goodness
- Commando Miniatures for an early Series I SWB Landrover and early Ferret
- Akula's 'Apocalypse Isle' range for a Series II SWB Landrover, and TARV models for a LWB version
- Grubby Tanks/Britannia do a Saracen (1/56 I think) in their Malaya line.
- ProMod does a 1/50 Bedford RL (and Corgi (eBay) does a number of 1/50 scale vehicles including a Bedford S canvas back as well as some useable buses and civilian trucks.
- For civilian cars, eBay will throw up the occasional 1/60 or 1/50 ish scale vehicle but the widest range are 1/43 - the Corgi Vanguards range has Ford Escorts, Cortinas, Grenadas (including in police livery), Austin Allegros and so on.
Rural settings will give an easy win, but options for urban settings exist in:
- 28mm: Sally4th for MDF photorealistic terrace houses, cornershops, pub, and more
- 28mm: Building fronts such as terrace houses and railway arches from Outpost Wargames Services
- 28mm: MDF terrace houses, cottages and farm buildings from Charlie Foxtrot Models
- 28mm phone and post boxes from Grekwood Miniatures
- 28mm: More street furniture, lamp posts and so on from Fenris Games:
- 28mm: Industrial style MDF pre-paints from Crescent Root in their Series 2 range
- O Gauge: Cardstock low relief terrace houses and shops from Purple Bob hobbies
- 1/48 scatter materials such as bricks from Juweela
Good blogs include:
- Mark Hannan's Winter of '79 blog: http://winterof79.blogspot.co.uk/
- Dougie's wargaming blog: http://dougieswargamingblog.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Northern%20Ireland
You might also want to check out things like the BBC2's TV adaptation of AFN Clarke's 'Contact' or the book itself, or (later) General Sir Frank Kitson's book "Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping" which was written in 1971 and discusses how to deploy the British Army in the event of civil strife.