Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Anglican League, part 1

In a large room in Church House, the London headquarters of the Church of England, a group of men are deep in discussion.
‘We cannot start a civil war.’ Says an older head, this one is in a white collar and purple shirt.
‘We won’t start it. We’ll just be ready to fight it.’ Says a younger and hotter head, this one also has a white collar and purple shirt.
‘Men are drilling in some of the northern towns,’ Says a third.
‘And in the countryside in the South.’ Says the younger and hotter head.
‘Some of those are your men.’ Says the older head.
‘No.’ Said the younger and hotter head. ‘The men are friends of Ours.’
‘But what’s our aim? The Church can not overthrow the King.’
‘ We must stop the marriage.’ This from another head. ‘And if we can’t, then Edward must go and Albert must take the crown in his place.’
'Albert won’t openly stand against Edward. Anyway, he is taking his family to Canada.’
‘Good. We do all the dirty work and he can reunite the country.’
‘And Mosley. He must go as well. New elections.’
‘But we are agreed we must do something?’
‘YES.’ Some of the yeses are more enthusiastic than others.
All the men know that action was needed, But civil war in England was almost unthinkable.
‘We need a name if we cannot do it in Albert’s name.’
‘And no use of the words, ‘Church of England.’
‘English Union?’
‘Sounds like a football team.’
‘Too fascist.’
‘Albion League?’
‘We’re the Anglican Church, so why not Anglican League?’
‘Very good.’ The room was filled with the sounds of agreement.
‘Gentlemen. A toast - ‘The Anglican League’.’
The chorus rang round the room.
‘The Anglican League.’

Why the Bishop of Bath and Wells?

After watching Blackadder I know I had to have the ‘Baby Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells’ in one of my armies. My main army at the time was a War of the Roses one and I thought that would be perfect.
My Mum worked for the Bishop of Bath and Wells and I knew that in the Chapel of the Bishop’s Palace were the coats of arms of all the old Bishops. I got permission to go in and found a coat of arms from the 1450s. The ‘Baby Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells’ quickly became infamous in the club.
Like the Somerset Freedom Fighters the Bishop had to be part of the Very British Civil War.

Somerset Freedom Fighters, part 3

The youngest member of A company is Charlie Boy Wilmot. One of his earliest memories is of the church bailiffs coming to his families farm. His father could not pay the tithes and so the church sent men to take it. When Charlies father tried to stop the bailiffs he was beaten up, as two policemen looked on. It was the arrival of a lorry load of Somerset Freedom Fighters which saved Charlies father and the farm. Charlie is one of the lucky ones. Many of the men he is fighting with have had little or no work after being blacklisted. The church bailiffs would do anything to stop organised resistance to their work collecting the Queen Anns Bounty. Even years later some men are called bad sorts and not to be trusted.

When the Anglican League started to collect the tithes again Charlie joined the SFF as soon as he could. Charlies story is a common one all across Somerset and this has lead to a lot of support for the SFF.
The company started the civil war quite small but had a large network of informers, runners and road watchers. At the start of the civil war it has regular run-ins with the auxiliary police and the estate militia of Lord Winterfield, for control of the Mendips.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Somerset Freedom Fighters, part 2

That was until the General Strike. This time the SFF worked to keep farms working, moving food, fuel and livestock around the county. This meant strike braking and lead to fights with union men.
When it was only the miners left on strike CT made sure the SFF supported them and their families, much to the surprise of the miners and the annoyance of Lord Winterfield, who owned some of the north Somerset coal mines. The SFF and north Somerset miners had found they had a common enemy, Lord Winterfield who was also a big land owner in north Somerset.
After the tithe was repealed the SFF faded away, that was until the abdication crisis and the start of the civil war.
CT was surprised just how quickly the SFF reformed. Some meetings in the back rooms of pubs, a hand shake at a village fate and they were back in business. CT became a company commander. Organising and training was easy, arming his men less so, Here was were Dick Skeggs really helped, his years of travelling after leaving the army had given him some very good contacts. These he used to buy and smuggle arms in to Somerset. ’A’ company was the first unit to draw blood when the fighting started.

Friday, 29 October 2010

'A' Company Somerset Freedom Fighters, part 1

'A' Company operates around Frome in the north east of Somerset. The company is lead by an officer known only as CT. He is assisted by Wally Pike and Frank Williams. One of the characters in the unit is Mad Sam.
CT is an ex army officer, he was to young to serve in the Great War but did serve in Ireland and Palestine. This gave CT a lot of experience in irregular warfare. Injured and invalided out CT went back in to farming. He was lucky as he owned some land as well as renting some. This meant he was not paying rent, tithe and trying to make a living from the same piece of land.


CT hated how the farmers were treated, having to watch bailiffs take all a families possessions to pay the Queen Anns Bounty made him ferrous. He did everything he could to help other farmers and was soon approached and asked to join the Somerset Freedom Fighters. CT jumped at the chance, and spent the rest of that summer and many others organising lorry loads of farmers to chase church bailiffs across north Somerset.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Somerset Freedom Fighters

The Somerset Freedom Fighters started in the 1920s to try and stop Church bailiffs collecting a tithe call Queen Anne’s Bounty. The SFF organised Lorry loads of men to stop the bailiffs. It also used road watchers to look out for the bailiffs and police. The road watchers would then call in any sightings from phone boxes to a central office. The call always started ’ Can I speak to my Grandfather please?’. The SFF did so well that after 3 years the Church had stopped collecting the tithe in Somerset.
During the General Strike the SFF reappeared this time helping the country people get food and fuel. Also moving livestock too and from market this bought them in to conflict with the town based unions.
The SFF are run by an Army council called the Somerset Seven. Each member of the Seven is the commander of 1 of the SFF companies.They are also known as the ‘Grandfathers‘.
They have been joined by an Ulsterman, Dick Skeggs who acts as military advisor. Dick is known as the ‘Godfather‘.
Dick as increased the number of women in the SFF. None are in combat. Most work as messengers, or have been recruited in telephone exchanges where they listen in to conversations. 1 or 2 work in B.U.F offices in Bristol and 
Taunton, helping get vital information.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

In the beginning...

All stories have a beginning, this one starts with the Somerset Freedom Fighters.
The Somerset Freedom Fighters where born on the night of 2nd November 1966 at a recording of Adge Cutler and the Wurzels by the BBC. In a throwaway line Adge says ‘there are members of the Somerset Freedom Fighters in here to night’, it gets a big cheer.
I heard this recording as a teenager in 1979 and I thought this was great idea. My Godfather Dick Skeggs have just started taking me to his local wargaming club in Wells, Somerset.
I wrote some background, how Somerset declared UDI, the siege of Frome, an attack on Yeovilton to steal the helicopters. The enemy was a Labour government and a paramilitary police force called the Special Patrol Group (SPG).
The first game I put on at club was the Somerset Freedom Fighters verses the SPG. I painted all the figures and wrote the rules.
The game finished with a duel between apposing commanders with 40mm grenade launchers! And from that a legend was born.
When Rob and I where talking about a civil war in 1938 the Somerset Freedom Fighters where the first unit we thought of.