Overview of the North East
Following the outbreak of the Civil War Lord Percy was appointed Warden of the Northern Marches and given three regiments of infantry; The Durham Light Infantry (DLI), Coldstream Guards and Northumbrian Fusiliers to command. Percy was instructed by the King to secure the supply of coal from the northern fields, and of course to maintain the peace.
Unfortunately before Lord Percy’s investiture many of the mining communities of the North East, always left leaning in their political affiliations, seized control of the pits and shared the wealth with the mine workers and other industrial poor. Three areas were more successful than others and despite the efforts of the mine owners have held out and strengthened their positions.
In the north Ashington, Ellington and Newbiggin have formed workers co-operative and are in the process of building coaling staithes at Newbiggin to facilitate coal export independent of the Government controlled railways.
Further south in Chopwell a small mining village south of the Tyne, communism is rife and their message and fervour is spreading like a bushfire with many surrounding villages joining the cause. It is rumoured although not proven that they are obtaining arms from Liverpool and are in negotiations with Russia to obtain modern weapons for the Great British Revolution.
To the south of Chopwell is the West Durham Socialist Miners Party. They are a loose affiliation with the general aim of spreading the word of Socialism throughout the country.
To counter the spread of Bolshevism and to protect his interests the Earl of Durham, owner of the Lambton Estate, has raised a private army. He saw the writing on the wall after the Russian Revolution and bought a substantial amount of military surplus after the Great War which he now is putting to ‘good use in the defence of Durham’.
In the City of Newcastle the Anglican League have taken control of the city centre and have convinced the workers of Elwick in the west, Blue Star brewery in the north and Swan Hunters shipyards in the east to support them in their struggle to keep the city a true royalist stronghold.
Edward and Moseley recognised that there would be difficulties with local troops firing on their own friends and neighbours have deployed the King’s Own Tyneside Battalion in Fenham barracks in the north of Newcastle while across the river in Gateshead a battalion of BUF troops have been garrisoned. These troops have been brought in from the south of the county and can be trusted to obey orders, although even local allies show hostility to the ‘soft Southerners’.
Further north and to the west of the Great North Road the local wealthy landowners, tired of paying the increased taxes have formed the Northumbrian Freedom Fighters. Their started aim is for an independent Northumberland although many believe they are more concerned about their wallets. It hasn’t seemed to deter the locals as many have responded to the call spoiling for a fight with anyone.
Map of the British Civil War 1938
Comrade John Sidney Harding [ex-farmer, now politician]
President Harding is a strong willed and charismatic leader who carries a natural authority and an earthy charm. He is a practical man born out of a hard working rural family and with a strong community-based socialist ethic. His adoption of Communism surprised many of his friends s he has never been particularly political nor extreme in his views. He acts as a powerful moderating influence over the various ideological factions, and provides a ‘steady hand at the tiller’.
Treasurer: Comrade Herbert Wallings [accountant and Freemason]
Herbert Wallings is a quiet Protestant of a man and an excellent accountant. Staunch and simple in his tastes and morals he took to the Communist cause out of practicality. His practice in Rowlands Gill fell within the Communist territory. Honest and forthright, he greatly impressed Harding who appointed him Treasurer immediately. Wallings is a Freemason in the Durham Lodge but retains these contacts tacitly. Harding suspects but even he is not sure of Wallings affiliations.
Media spokesman: Comrade Kenneth Kirkup [journalist and union delegate]
Kenneth Kirkup is an accomplished journalist who cut his teeth with the Durham Chronicle. He is also a committed Trades Unionist. On the outbreak of war he took up the Communist banner, seeing the Socialist response to the rise of Fascism as wholly inadequate. He’s now an evangelical Leninist and has earned the nickname ‘Red Ken’. Solid, dependable, and with a keen eye on the value of the media and propaganda, he also has a serious character flaw. Kenneth is a whisky-soak. He drinks heavily and almost continuously when ‘off duty’, and when drunk he tends to be belligerent, outspoken and aggressive. Kenneth often wakes up on a Saturday morning in the police cells, nursing a hangover.
UPDATE: Kirkup was recently killed. Official media reported his death as a 'motor vehicle accident'. BUF propaganda say he was killed trying to escape from police custody following a charge of violent affray. Chopwell insists he was shot and killed in cold blood by the BUF after being arrested on trumped up charges of assault.
Comrade-Militant Bertrand Westinghouse [Captain, Durham Light Infantry (retired)]
Bertrand Westinghouse is an old soldier; a retired captain and veteran of the Great War. Unusually for a career soldier he has been a lifelong Socialist, having been raised in Ashington by his father, a staunch steward of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain (MFGB). Bertrand went to France with the BEF and served at the First Battle of the Aisne in 1914. Wintering at Armentieres it contracted TB and was invalided back the Blighty and never returned to action. Bertrand transferred to an instructor’s role and spent the rest of the war training Territorial Battalions in Durham. After the war Bertrand remained in service, achieving the rank of Captain shortly before retiring to Chopwell in 1934 with his wife Daisy. A long-standing friend of Roy Harding (John Harding’s father), he took up John’s offer to take over command of the training and command of the Communist forces at Chopwell. ‘Old Berty’ as he is known is a popular member of the collective. His rigorous training methods and insistence on effective defensive works has lent a sense of security to the villages in these unsettled times.
Commissariat : Comrade-Commissar ‘Ivan’ Eardley [Intellectual and committed Marxist]
Ivan (James) Eardley was born in Newcastle to the middles class Eardley family. His father was a successful barrister and his mother a music teacher. James attended Eton where he read Classics, Law and Politics. Upon graduation he moved France to pursue a career in the Arts, but quickly fell in with the Socialist/Communist movement of the Popular Front. James changed his name to Ivan during this period, becoming a committed Marxist. He became fast friends with André Léon Blum, the leader of the Socialist Party of France. Upon Blum’s election to Prime Minister of France in 1936, Eardley returned to Newcastle determined to match his friend’s success at home. He became quickly disillusioned with the fractious nature of British Socialism and lack of a coalition similar to the French Popular Front. Even with the clear threat presented by the British Union of Fascists in Whitehall, Eardley found it impossible to unite the Socialist in the North East and resolved to head down to Liverpool. His journey stopped at Chopwell where he met John Harding. Eardley is convinced that Harding has the qualities needed to unite the left against the Fascists and accepted the offer to stay and help. He has taken the position of political officer and runs the Commissariat. Eardley and Kenneth Kirkup regularly engaged in heated debates, on occasion coming to blows over the political direction of the Duma.
The central Duma at Chopwell oversees a series of local (village) Dumas. These local Dumas are implemented through existing parish, village, and town councils wherever possible, to minimise disruption to the daily lives of the people. The Chopwell Duma issues primary diktats for local implementation. The Local Dumas retain autonomy in terms of how these diktats are implemented, and also over secondary local concerns.
Democratic discussion is a vital and vibrant part of the Dumas, and Harding’s insistence that women can hold office as freely as men has led to a very strong community-based decision-making capacity. In fact, local Dumas are often dominated by the so called ‘rolling pin blocks’; solid voting factions of housewives. Social care and sensible communal decisions are beginning to proliferate, and surprisingly the women seem highly militant, consistently proposing and voting through continuation of the war effort.
Many men seem quite happy to leave the women to it, preferring to spend their time at the pub, building Meccano sets, racing pigeons, or watching cricket.
Each Duma is however chaired by appointees from the Central Duma and supported by committed members of the Commissariat, thus ensuring that serious challenges to Harding’s rule are quashed. This is not popular, although open resistance to this has yet to emerge. However, worrying rumours have spread from High Spen in the last few weeks concerning the mysterious death of Glynys Thompson. Found dead in her netty, she was an outspoken critic of the appointments system, and the rumours suggest that Ivan Eardley ordered his Commissars to ‘remove her’. This has been strongly denied by the Central Duma.
Noted Regional Dumas
High Spen Dominated by a powerful ‘rolling pin block’, they are staunch advocates of extending Communist influence into Blaydon Burn and Winlaton.
Medomsley Following the collapse of the Duma at Consett due to Anglican-inspired resistance at the council, it was re-established at Medomsley. This Duma oversees both Consett and Shotley Bridge. The sword maker at Shotley Bridge has expanded operations to include wider armoury capacity.
Hamsterley Mill The Duma is run by a powerful union delegation from Hamsterley Colliery. All are members of the MFGB and are intent on expanding control over the coal industry in the North East.
Prudhoe The Duma here is run by local ‘dignitaries’ from the brickworks (Mickley and Edgewell). It holds session at Prudhoe Castle which also serves as a well fortified garrison against the present threats from Newcastle. The Duma is looking at establishing a chemical plant in the area (and is liaising with ICI to provide the expertise), with the intention to create agricultural fertilisers to supply the Kolkys and make them more productive.
Crawcrook ‘Emma’ and ‘Clara’, the two pits at Crawcrook have adapted exceptionally well to communal ownership and are two of Chopwell’s most productive coal mines. The Duma here is run smoothly and efficiently by the mining administrators. Crawcrook, even more than before, is dedicated to the mining industry. Its leader, Samuel Beckwith, is known to refer disparagingly to John Harding as ‘that farmer’. Rumours persist that Beckwith considers his industrial might makes him a more appropriate leader. He is however a liberal socialist that the Communist hardliners will not accept.
Riding Mill The Duma at Riding Mill has been given the responsibility of ensuring the maintenance and control of the railways through the Chopwell territory. Run by railwaymen, it does however have a powerful ‘rolling pin block’ that continually harangues the Duma leadership to concentrate on other more ‘domestic’ issues.
Beyond that area, the Communists also exerted an indirect influence of varying strength out as far as Horsley, Hexham, Wolsingham, Langley Park, and even into the outlying areas of Chester-le-Street and Gateshead .