Monday, 23 September 2013

The New Zealand Legion: 1919 Faction

Readers of Headologist's blog will have heard about his new alternate history project - 1919.  Allow me to pinch his summary from the blog:

"In these circumstances, if you carry out your threat and strike, then you will defeat us.  But if you do so, have you weighed the consequences? ...  For, if a force arises in the state which is stronger than the state itself, then it must be ready to take on the functions of the state itself, or withdraw and accept the authority of the state.  Gentlemen, have you considered, and if you have, are you ready?' 

Prime Minister, David Lloyd George to strike leader Robert Smillie

In 1919, Britain was already close to revolution - and whilst this has been debated, it is clear that the Government of the day considered it a very real possibility. I won't waffle on about this history now, I'm saving that for a shiny document. But the quote from Lloyd George above sums it up nicely.

What if Smillie and the others had said that they were ready?

What if the Bolshevik revolution had had a little more international success and what if ties with British socialists and communists had been stronger?

What if the strikers had had a stronger central leadership pushing for revolution now and not reform?

And what if Germany had won the war, what if there had been a more successful U-boat war that left Britain close to starving? (more so than as was already the case in reality).



So there we are - and I think it's about time I revealed my faction.  They are the New Zealand Legion - based on the Bulford Mutinies which took place after the First World War.  

In real life, Sling Camp (in modern-day Bulford Camp, near Salisbury, UK) housed some 4,500 ANZAC troops.  Morale was already low; expecting to go home, there was a delay and the camp was ravaged by Spanish 'Flu.  Troops began chuntering about not being allowed to return to New Zealand.  In true British Army fashion, the remedy to this unrest was a strict regime of 'spit-and-polish' (parades), route marches, and pointless work to keep the troops occupied.  The famous 'Bulford Kiwi' is an example of this.

A period photo from a newspaper - which euphemistically refers to it
having been cut to 'commemorate' the NZ forces' time in Sling Camp.
When the troops requested a relaxation of discipline, since the war was over, it was refused and the troops promptly rioted.  The camp was occupied, and (in what I think is a lovely touch) they looted all the whisky from the Officer's Mess.  Anarchy reigned for a few days, until the British authorities offered an amnesty to the mutineers.  They agreed.  In the supreme irony of all this, the ringleaders were then arrested and shipped straight back to New Zealand, where they'd been trying to get for the past year.

So that's real life - in this setting, I assume that the Army was too preoccupied to restore order and a small band of ANZAC troops start wandering around the south of England, trying to find a ship that will return them home.  Of course, their non-political stance won't keep them out of all the trouble that's brewing, and if they want passage home they'll have to fight for it...

In terms of models, generic ANZAC troops will probably do.  Although they aren't 'bolshevised', I would guess that in the absence of any officers some NCOs would be elected into command positions, and I might Green Stuff some unbuttoned tunics and placards as well.  Their name is of course a tip of the hat to the Czech Legion, who found themselves in a very similar situation in Russia in 1917/18.

So that's the plan - another project to get started on!  Once I've finished moving house I'll have plenty to keep me busy.  As ever, hit me with the comments below.  Particularly any ANZAC historians or readers from New Zealand - despite what I've managed to cobble together about the Battle of Bulford Camp, it's not very well documented in the Camp archives (unsurprisingly - not exactly our finest hour).  If you know anything about this I'd love to hear from you.

Keep safe, troops

Ed

7 comments:

  1. I'm not familiar with this at all, but I'm eager to see what you do with the project, it certainly sounds interesting.

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    1. Neither was I, it's a pretty obscure episode. I had to research it for a 'punishment duty' but it turned out to be really interesting. Models in the post, then games will follow soon!

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  2. Ditto, Looking forward to see it. Also may do some research into this as it sounds very interesting.

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    1. I'll have a look at some of the stuff we have. All seems to have been hushed up rather well.

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  3. Absolutely superb idea sir, and that weaving of actual events into the alternate timeline is spot on - definitely gets the spirit of what I wanted from the setting. And definite bonus points for the Czech Legion parallel, I've long had a fascination with them. Can't wait to see them converted and painted up... And perhaps get a few clashes in with the Worker's Militias and the People's Vanguard... And the "loyal" Government troops too... As I've got some naval types on the way, a clash in port is a must methinks

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  4. Thanks, yes I did try to hit all the areas we were going for, although I want to do some other factions these are going to be my main effort for a while. Fighting to get on board the last ship to New Zealand?

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    1. And managed to get it spot on as ever. I thought something along those lines, or fighting between the revolutionaries and the NZL to requisition a ship for their own purposes... Just had the image of Keaton's the Navigator... They all get on the wrong ship and end up in Greenland

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