The history of the nation of Essex
The county was the site of the New Towns of Basildon and Harlow. Following the Second World War RAF Debden and RAF Wethersfield were used as sites for the USAF; also within the county were the airports of Southend and Stansted, which grew in size and significance at the end of the 1970s. However – and importantly – the county was home to a nuclear bunker in proximity to the village Kelvedon Hatch, which by the 1980s was intended for use by the British Government in case of nuclear war.
DoomsdayThe county was struck hard by the events of September 26th. Eight nuclear weapons and one conventional weapon fell on the county:
- London Southend Airport – 20kt
- London Stansted Airport – 20kt
- RAF Wethersfield – 20kt
- RAF Debden – 20kt
- Tilbury Port – 20kt
- Colchester Barracks - 50kt
- Coryton Oil Refinery – 100kt
- Harwich and Felixstowe Ports – 100kt
London Southend AirportThe Southend bomb was most likely intended to be a ground burst bomb in order to destroy the airfield entirely. In actual fact the warhead detonated prematurely. This produced an air burst. The runway was not destroyed but all the facilities in and around the airport were leveled. In addition, a firestorm began, which rapidly engulfed the area of Prittlewell to the Airport's immediate south. This spread down to the banks of the Thames Estuary, over two and a half miles from the initial blast site, and subsequently spread westward. Southend-on-Sea was spared from the main firestorm but nonetheless had to cope with massive damage from overpressure and subsequent fires. The firestorm spreading northwest toward Hadleigh produced large amounts of dust, a significant amount of which was irradiated by entering the fireball of the airport's bomb. This produced a radioactive dust cloud that would pass over the south of the county, causing substantial casualties in years to come.
Significant panic occurred in the local area, with a massive stampede moving westward along the Southend Arterial Road. By morning this refugee column would intercept many fleeing from London, leading to further panic and confusion over where to go. However, some in the area remained behind and tried to help firefighting efforts by sending buckets of water from the Thames itself up to fight the fires. This managed to temporarily hold the line along Elmsleigh Way. However, radiation poisoning, fatigue, and a collapse of morale after seeing the massive burning oil slick along the Thames meant the line failed and another panic began. The fire subsequently spread to the woods of Daws Heath and from there burnt down everything up to the A130.
Southend-on-Sea itself, however, managed to survive with the majority of fallout and fire blown away from it by the wind; a damp sea breeze helped in firefighting efforts. The railway line was used as a firebreak, along with the area to the immediate south, and another human chain was set up to carry buckets of water across. A few artillery guns from the testing range on Foulness Island were brought to help level the firebreak at four in the morning. Behind this line, emergency services did their best to help the Southchurch district. Though many thousands subsequently survived, they found themselves cut off from the rest of Essex. Until the local government re-established its authority the locals found themselves living off meagre land and dwindling food supplies.
Later estimates put the direct casualties from the Southend bomb at 55,000 people.
London Stansted Airport
London Stansted Airport was being planned for eventual conversion to London's third airport. Though it had a terminal and handled a significant portion of traffic, it was still a relatively minor airport. However, this did not spare it from the nuclear onslaught and it was destroyed by a single ground burst bomb. As a result there was little physical damage to the surrounding area but nonetheless the local region was highly contaminated for many years, and still high almost three decades later. The village of Takeley was abandoned, as were the towns of Bishops Stortford and Stansted Montfichet, for several years.
The base was occupied by the 819th CES and 2166th Communications Squadron, which were scrambling at the time of the attack. A few fighters managed to make it into the air but the rest were destroyed by a ground burst bomb. These aircraft would attempt to intercept a few missiles but all attempts failed; they subsequently landed at Woodbridge.
RAF DebdenRAF Debden had been unused since 1974, when the Royal Air Force ceased activities at the site. It was subsequently renamed as Carver Barracks, hosting 33 Engineer Regiment and 101 Engineer Regiment, Saffron Walden Detachment B Company of the Essex Cadets, and the Essex Wing of Air Training Corps. All personnel on-site managed to evacuate to a safe distance by the time the bomb detonated, another ground burst. The unit moved southeast along the B184 to Thaxted. The bomb irradiated a reasonable area including Saffron Walden, which by then wa experiencing a panicked evacuation. The area would remain irradiated and this would lead to minor contamination of the River Chelmer and River Can.
Tilbury Port was located along the River Thames. The port facilities were destroyed by an air burst bomb, leading to the deaths of several hundred mariners and dockworkers, along with several thousand civilians in Tilbury. It was just one of several large bombs along the course of the Thames to destroy port facilities in the area, leaving the river full of debris and bodies.
Colchester BarracksHaving long been a garrison town, Colchester was almost guaranteed to be hit. To the grim surprise of none, a twenty kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above the garrison's base on the south side of Colchester. A small number of those present at the base managed to escape, but very few survived the explosion. The bomb's detonation managed to wipe out most of the barrack complex, and cause severe structural damage to the Merville Barrack complex on the north side of Abbey Field. The Glasshouse - the military prison to the south - was mostly undamaged, as were nearby buildings. The explosion caused massive damage to Colchester, starting fires all around the garrison site and in the town centre. However, the shape of the area - a steep-sided valley to the north of the river - meant that much of Colchester to the north side of the River Colne went undamaged. Furthermore, some of the blast's power was directed by the contours of the land away along the Old Heath, bleeding off power that would otherwise be directed toward the town centre. Nonetheless the damage was significant and immediate casualties were in the order of 10,000.
Yet Colchester was quickly able to fight the damage. This was thanks to a number of factors, mostly to do with the fact that thanks to the garrison's presence it was one of the first to be alerted to the threat. Civil defense sirens woke the populace and meant that emergency services had a few extra minutes to prepare. Colchester had another advantage, too: a proud tradition of service in the territorial army. In spite of the loss of the the garrison the town did have some military guidance from local TA units and soldiers not on the base at the time, allowing a more effective co-ordination of relief efforts. The final advantage was abundant local water supplies: Abberton Reservoir, the River Colne, and the 'Jumbo' Water Tower. The water tower, a famous local landmark, had survived the initial attack and an improvised response from locals saw its entire capacity being used to fight the fires.
Damage to Colchester was almost total in the south due to a raging firestorm, but less so northward. Abbey Field, separating the main barrack complex with its northern parts, provided a firebreak that slowed the flames as they tracked northward. This gave local authorities the time to combat fires in the town centre with water from the Jumbo Water Tower and prepare a firebreak along the Southway that led through the town centre. This was no easy task for staggering emergency services but a pragmatic decision by local authorities to abandon everything beyond the Southway meant that they could just about extinguish the fires in the town centre, though finding and fighting additional fires that sprung up on that morning remained an issue for the hundreds of local volunteers involved in holding back the flames. The Southway, a wide road, provided a natural firebreak, but was augmented by demolishing the buildings along the road that the bomb had not leveled with any tools that could be scavenged from the local area.Water supplies also came from the River Colne. To the east, in Lexden and Beacon End, locals tried to retrieve water from an old quarry to fight the fires, but this was primarily a rearguard measure since most people were fleeing to the A12, which had become a corridor for police, TA units and ambulances to move between the undamaged parts of Colchester. Ultimately the area was abandoned. This was because the winds were driving the firestorm toward the area anyway and the effort could be better focused on preserving the town centre.
By morning, after passing round a large school field, the firestorm had destroyed almost all of Colchester south of the river, barring the town centre, where exhausted local volunteers had fought the flames for six hours. Their efforts were hampered by fallout-induced sickness but ultimately they succeeded in holding back the worst of the flames, protecting the city centre. However, it was realised within days that the area would have to be abandoned due to fallout. Colchester's town centre would later become the target of 'roaches' - criminals whose punishment was to trek into radioactive areas and scavenge anything of value. Nonetheless the northern part of the town survived and avoided the initial, largest dose of radiation, which instead settled in the farmland northeast of Colchester. This isolated the town and paved the way for the short-lived independent survivor commune of the Tendring Peninsula. Casualties from Doomsday are estimated at 34,000.
Coryton Oil Refinery
Coryton Oil Refinery was hit by a single 100 kiloton warhead. However, it was not directly targetted at the refinery - rather, it was detonated over Vange Creek. This was in order to take out both the refinery at Coryton and the petrochemical storage site on Canvey Island. The detonation completely levelled both sites either directly, through overpressure, or through the ignition of the stored petrochemicals by the heat blast. Along with other blasts on petrochemical sites along the Thames, this released a huge slick of burning oil down the Thames. The immediate effects of this would be to close off the river to any escape attempts by sea and demoralise firefighting volunteers at Southend-on-Sea; in the long run it would led to a horrendous ecological collapse. It would also release a huge black cloud over the town of Corringham, and trigger panic in Corringham and on Canvey Island. Direct casualties from the bomb are somewhere in the region of 300.
Harwich and Felixstowe Ports
Being some of the busiest ports in the UK at the time, Harwich and Felixstowe were both unsurprising targets during the nuclear onslaught. Rather than being targeted individually, however, a single 100 kiloton device was detonated over the estuary of the River Stour and the River Orwell. This created both a massive overpressure wave that flattened all facilities at the ports and an artificial tsunami that caused massive damage to the ports themselves and collateral along the Stour and Orwell, including gouging out a huge chunk of central Ipswich. Container ships moored up at the time were gashed against the walls of the ports, spilling containers into the water. Pleasure craft moored up in the rivers at the time were also capsized, sunk or stranded ashore. The blast wave also caused damage and fires in Harwich and Felixstowe, and destroyed the villages of Shotley and Shotley Gate. Two container ships sunk in the estuary and remain there, along with the many ships destroyed on and around the ports themselves. Radiation from the explosion was minimal and contaminated the Orwell valley. Deaths from the bomb are estimated at 21,000, counting deaths on the boats, onshore, and from the tidal wave.
Response across the county
Local military units evacuated senior government officials from the surrounding areas to the Kelvedon Hatch bunker; by the time the first fallout began to settle at midnight, most of the MPs for the county had been transferred to the bunker.
Sketchy radio reports allowed the new government to determine that the greatest devastation was on the fringes of the county; much of the centre was untouched by nuclear strikes. However, weather reports indicated that fallout from the Southend bomb would irradiate most of the area south of the River Crouch, the Colchester detonation would cause at least 50% fatalities from fire or radiation in the town, and also that the Bradwell explosion would irradiate Tollesbury. Contact with TA and police units across the country allowed the government to initiate a semi-controlled evacuation and also dispense information for survivors over how to cope and deal with their situation. Stations were also established along the M25 to control the flow of survivors from London into the city.
Immediate casualty estimates are low, given that most of the blasts were away from major population centres. However, in Southend, it is estimated that at least twenty thousand died from the blast wave and subsequent inferno, and in Colchester the combination of fires and fallout from the blast which covered most of the west side of town caused around 45,000 deaths. In total it is thought that a hundred and fifty thousand people died from the initial attack, with the vast majority of these in the south part of the county and within the M25.
The First MonthsA week after the attack, however, the real danger facing the population grew obvious. Several thousand refugees had been forced to seek asylum in towns such as Brentwood and Billericay, or establish tent cities with dire living conditions. Immediately the government recognised the need to establish order, granting itself extreme powers to maintain order.
Numerous harsh methods were immediately enacted across the region controlled by the Bunker Government. Refugees from London were placed in any available billets, including already-occupied houses; homeowners resisting this were shot. Rations were extremely tight. On the outskirts of London, officers were ordered to simply 'stop unrest from spreading' rather than take action to keep the peace; the government was happy for entire groups to kill themselves rather than pose an extra strain. When buildings were filled up from refugees, many spilled out into massive tent cities near Chelmsford, which were rife with disease and poor sanitation.
As initial food stocks began to run out, citizens were ordered to surrender any agricultural equipment to the government, which redistributed it across the county. Following this the emergency government sought to relocate refugees across Essex to create an agricultural workforce; when their numbers ran out, the government turned to volunteers and later still conscripts. Families were forcibly separated from each other and forced to work for long hours each day.
Those that refuse to work were shot and the bodies are deposited in isolated mass graves; indeed, all crimes were met with an order for execution – it is thought over two thousand people were summarily executed before the New Year. Further deaths were caused by fallout saturation over the southeast and northwest, and triage centres reported that a further sixty thousand people had to be euthanized. Many ill, however, were forced to work to the death. The cold winter only added to casualty levels. Ultimately, by the time of New Year, at least four hundred thousand people had died from various causes.
1984: In the Balance
The arrival of a New Year was not met well. Despite the government's best efforts starvation plagued nearly seventy percent of the population. Rations were meagre and irregular and out of a desire to control food supplies, the government simply refused to distribute food to Basildon after a riot there in February. This led to more unrest and violent police crackdowns lasting until May. Factors like these meant that there were an estimated thousand deaths a day until March. With so many rotting corpses the government often could not dispatch workers to round up bodies for cremation or mass graves, leading to outbreaks of diseases. Conditions were made no better by having to deal with constant fallout blown in from both the local strikes and from the radioactive tumour of London. Along with cancers and crop failures, the radiation meant that the numbers of healthy newborn children, particularly in the fringes of the county, were tiny. By March the government had taken to rehoming pregnant women in Chelmsford and not allowing them to leave their houses until they were due to deliver. Chelmsford, already burdened with a huge number of refugees, was a touchstone of violence but draconian policing and the humanitarian efforts of the mayor meant that most revolts were controlled.
Nonetheless, there was some optimism. By July the tentative food dispersal network had been established across the county, ensuring that food stocks were being adequately and consistently resupplied across the county. The government was also considering inaugurating itself as a legitimate successor state to the UK – the Interim Nation of Essex. Importantly, contact was made with survivors on the Tendring Peninsula, which included the survivors of Colchester and their well-disciplined Territorial Army. Despite the additional strain of administration, it did allow the government an additional bulwark of manpower and the reasonably fertile and un-irradiated Tendring Peninsula. The swelled military eventually managed to western secure a border across the A10, preventing scavenger groups from attacking border villages. This vague stability gave much-needed morale to the workforce of the county – or country, as it became on Midsummer’s Day that year.
But the summer turned out to be bleaker than hoped. Radiation clouds from the centre of England caused small but noticeable levels of irradiation of the crops and population, which – coupled with the excessive heat of the nuclear summer – caused a wave of deaths and a subpar harvest. The total population fell to around half its pre-Doomsday level, roughly 650,000.
In an attempt to restore morale to a depressed and suffering populace, the government began a search for talented performers and entertainers. Taking to horse-drawn carts, parties of these entertainers – Entertainment Brigades – toured the villages and towns of the countryside and gave uplifting performances. But, just as much as the scheme raised the morale of the population, it horrified the performers. Many of them, drawn from the weakened but generally better-off towns, were shocked to see the variety of injury and suffering in the agricultural population.
1985-1990: Struggling for SurvivalIn 1985 the government concocted a scheme that it was hoped would restore the confidence of the population and begin the restoration of some semblance of pre-Doomsday life in the country: the return of electricity. Teams of engineers were removed from their agricultural duties and in co-ordination with the military ordered to find a way to use the windmills and watermills across Essex to generate electricity. After three months of scavenging, construction, and repeated failure, power was finally restored in May 1985 in the village of Churchend. Though the generator failed just a few days later it was quickly repaired with the vast amount of spare material accumulated through scavenging – material that was later put to use in other mills. Soon, several villages and towns had intermittent electricity; throughout the year these were installed in still further locations, mostly around the only intact major town: Chelmsford.
But it was far from the new dawn the government had expected. Food supplies were still on the edge of total failure, deaths still continued to occur, and the levels of water in the Hanningfield and Abberton reservoirs remained precariously low. In an attempt to pool the strengths of the agricultural population and secure the aid-dispensing process the government spent the remainder of the year marshaling the communities of the countryside into co-operatives, each sharing living space within a mansion or a cluster of houses to promote community and the sharing of resources.
To the government's relief, the schemed worked. Many people began to take to the fields willingly, out of duty for their comrades, rather than being forced at gunpoint to work. However, the brutal way in which the government had handled the scheme – simply dividing families and friends and carting them off to their new homes – caused did nothing to help the reputation of the administration. Those already separated from their families were forced to accept that they had no hope of ever seeing their loved ones again.
The following half-decade was long and painful, but by its conclusion a series of successful harvests had been reaped, mostly ending starvation. Casualty rates had severely dropped and the number of successful, healthy pregnancies was slowly increasing; by 1989 the population finally began to grow again. Chelmsford was supplied with round-the-clock electricity thanks to the huge numbers of wind turbines constructed in and around the town, allowing small light industrial operations to take place producing much-needed agricultural equipment. Its position of importance was boosted as the government decided it was safe to permanently rehouse itself in the town, making it the capital city of the Interim Nation. From this strategic position in the centre of its zone of control it was able to effectively administrate the day-to-day lives of the citizens. It also managed to infuse an iota of empathy into the emotionally-detached politicians.
The Tent Crisis and the Revolution of 1990
Massive tent cities still dominated the Essex landscape as late as 1989. These camps were rife with disease and violence, despite the best efforts of policing. Layer upon layer of dissatisfaction in the camps turned them into festering pits of rebellious sentiment. The government would repeatedly intervene and divide the tent cities in order to maintain control, but this was often unsuccessful. The two largest single camps were in Colchester and in Chelmsford, the latter of which was established on the floodplain of the River Chelmer.
Heavy snowfall in the winter of 1989, the first for the decade, melted and contributed to a massive increase in the flow of several of Essex's rivers. The massive overflow in the Chelmer inundated that Chelmsford tent city in freezing, diseased, and even slightly-irradiated water. The result was a vast humanitarian crisis in the centre of Essex's most stable city and just a stone's throw from the government. The flooding lasted three days, during which time several dozen drowned, hundreds caught diseases, and thousands watched their last possessions be swept away. Angry and dispossessed, they marched on Chelmsford Borough Council, which agreed on January 4th to take their case to the government. The meeting, however, was broken up. The next day five thousand people crowded into the town centre to protest against the government. Somewhere amidst the mob violence broke out and a small riot ensued, necessitating violent police intervention. The government subsequently announced that it would not repopulate the tent city and would use force to break up any further attempts at settlement there.This was seen as the last straw by many people living in tent cities. In Danbury, thousands of tent refugees had been given work as loggers, cutting down the forest to supply firewood for the winter. At the news they refused to work, resulting in immediate shootings from the local police. This broke down into chaos within minutes. The government ordered military intervention but since the backbone of the military was based on Territorial Army units from Colchester, most of whom had friends and family in the Colchester tent city, the order was never carried out. A standoff on the A12 at Witham devolved into a brief gunfight on January 8th and soon half the army had mutinied.
Initially the problem was seen as one that could be contained to the tent cities, and the only reason it had spread was because of the comradeship between the tented communities. The government expected that town-dwellers would stay aloof of the unrest, seeing it as a case of 'better them than us' and expecting selfish human nature to prevail. They were, for a time, right, until a new protest began on January 11th, again in Chelmsford. This time the march was fired upon by troops, but policemen and dissenting soldiers rapidly fired back. In the crossfire twenty six people were killed, including the popular chairman of the council. His death led to the townspeople of Chelmsford rising up against the government's violence; soon, Chelmsford was in turmoil. The government cordoned off the town centre as a fortress against insurrection.
The violence spread. By the 14th all of Essex's remaining towns had dissolved into violence too, in some cases going into complete anarchy. The food distribution system broke down and by the 20th several granaries were being raided, with the granary at Chipping Ongar being burnt down entirely. The government lost control of Hanningfield Reservoir sparking fears of a water shortage in Chelmsford; whilst this was not realised, electricity was lost, leading to further panic and rioting.By the end of the month the government had lost almost all control, save for a few loyalist units. Amidst massive protests several hundred government officials attempted to escape from the council offices to Kelvedon Hatch bunker via an armoured convoy. But despite orders to drive straight through protesters and rioters, the convoy was slowed and broken up as it moved down the High Street. Clawed from their cars, government officials were repeatedly assaulted, the focus of a riot which rapidly consumed the lower end of Chelmsford's High Street. Gunfire from the convoy was met in kind by rebel military units and in a single day of rage and violence over two hundred people died, with much of Chelmsford's High Street smashed and burning. A brief state of anarchy ensued before local policemen and TA units pacified the rioters across town.
The government was destroyed but so was the nation. With most towns now under independent control the official food supply systems broke down, with roads swamped by refugee slaves trying to return home. The countryside was ravaged by disenfranchised slaves and government loyalists for much of summer, looting and pillaging. To the fear of all, it appeared the government's collapse would be the end of any semblance of civilisation and safety in Essex.
The organised rebellion, based around the Colchester TA, had managed to secure control of the north of the county, but the south of the county was in peril, with marauding gangs and displaced tent-dwellers sweeping through the region. There were even fears that rivalry for the resources left over from the ‘Old Government’ would reignite conflict within Essex.
A few towns managed to secure their borders. The new Mayor of Brentwood, seeking to stabilise the area, sent invites to the various assemblies and leaders of the tent cities to dispatch representatives to Chelmsford as it refurbished the old County Hall. In its first meeting, on June 21st – six years since the foundation of the Interim Nation of Essex – the new government voted unanimously to dissolve the old nation and form the Combined Communes of Essex, with its new flag the traditional Essex banner. With a three-level system of governance designed around a wish for a minimum of bureaucracy, the new state was able to address local needs swiftly and clearly. Order, thankfully, was briskly restored and while rations were returned, food was successfully distributed. Most importantly, though, the issue of the tent cities was finally resolved, with the government pledging to rebuild on the fringes of Colchester and, importantly, Southend. Using wood harvested from the swollen Epping Forest that had come to dominate the interior of the M25, new houses would be built to finally solve at least a few of the problems of the tent cities.
1991-2000: The Brightening Years
Following the turmoil of 1990 the new nation looked forward to a year of peace and stability. For the first time since Doomsday their wish was answered fully; 1991 saw no major conflicts and only a few dozen skirmishes along the A10 border. Much of Essex spent a peaceful year in the fields, resulting in the most successful harvest since 1983, while the reformed military assisted in construction of large wind farms to restore almost total electricity supply across the country. Overgrown roads were cleared; Epping Forest was replanted to cover the entire area between Harlow and Waltham Abbey as a contingency plan for future fuel supplies. The winter passed quietly, with only a minor spike of casualties from malnourishment or exposure to the cold.
The situation for 1992 was blissfully similar. (In fact, this good luck served to reignite some faith in organised religion; the number of churchgoers tripled in 1992.) With food surpluses increasing, radiation levels slowly falling, and the life expectancy rising, the Combined Communities of Essex was able to consider for the first time a return to some semblance of industrialisation. The first step was to create a company of engineers and other skilled labourers to begin work on repairing and rebuilding various structures across the country, resulting in the creation of the aptly-named Construction Corps, which at formation possessed some seven hundred members. As resources were pooled plans were drawn up for a series of large scale engineering projects, including a relay of fortresses along the A10, the renovation of a number of abandoned and overgrown roads, and even more large-scale projects such as the construction of a huge lagoon at the mouth of the Blackwater and the reconstruction of Southend.
By 1993 the first of these projects began, with the construction of a system of forts linked by a railway along the A10 frontier. Railways leading into London were stripped and reused for the construction project, and a network of wind farms were used to electrify the track. Assisted as usual by the military the project ran fairly quickly, providing a wave of excitement across Essex as they saw the fruits of democracy. The brief spurt of isolationism between communities following the fall of the Old Government quickly collapsed to increasing levels of trade – something which would have far-reaching effects.
The Rejuvenation of the Towns
Trade between the co-operatives was clustered in the larger towns, especially in Chelmsford. A barter system developed, but the homogenous goods soon cut demand. Enterprising craftsmen from the towns and communes began to pool their experiences to create tools to sell to passing traders in the towns; the moderate lack of farming equipment in the countryside drove demand for professionally-built tools through the roof. Craftsmen soon found that their produce sold for far more than they needed; their surpluses of acquired food, they realised, could be used to pay other people to work for them, further increasing profits. Work spaces were taken over and refurbished, generally abandoned houses that were hollowed out and used as small-scale factories, and then employees began work whilst their employers salvaged or purchased usable resources.
Some artisans were incapable or reluctant to work in the production of agricultural equipment, but had other talents to turn to. As trade brought wealth to a variety of individuals demand for decorative goods grew. Performers that had been passed over by the Entertainment Brigades found new demand for their talents in the wealthier co-operatives, or gave independent productions at repaired theatres. Trained educators found themselves paid to work as tutors or run boarding schools. Artists produced new works; the scarcity of paints drove the value of proper paintings (as opposed to sketching) to the point of being some of the most valuable items in the economy.
There was an inevitable dark side for the new explosion of mercantilism. All the goods had to come from somewhere, and though Essex was well stocked (and half empty) there could always be more supplies from somewhere. The greatest source: London.
Exactly how many raids were made from Essex across the M25 frontier and into the maze of rubble heaps and derelict buildings that city had become remains unknown, but it is estimated that well over a hundred occurred from 1993 onward. Scavenger parties would brave local tribes and the threat of radiation to steal valuable items. Missions generally lasted from single nights to weeks of scavenging. Whilst parties were there it was well known – and later testified – that they would assault, rape, and murder local survivors before making off with goods. By 1996 these raids were common knowledge, and the numbers of guards along the southern M25 frontier had increased, but bribery and luck still allowed a small number of these parties to continue. But the raiders had their comeuppance; by 1998 the London clans had had enough of the raiding and briefly set aside their differences to lay an elaborate trap for the raiding parties. In February 1998 a Basildon-based raiding party was captured and slaughtered, their bodies hung over the major avenues of raider transit. The hangings continued until, by October that year, the incursions ceased and the London communities returned to their own affairs.
Essex’s first contact with an organised nation came indirectly in 1999. A single helicopter was spotted, passing close to Chelmsford, seemingly en route to London. A few days later the same craft was spotted on a similar course back the way it came: toward Ipswich and Suffolk. The event came late in the year, and Essex authorities – still wary of the effects of raids into the surviving outskirts of London – decided that rather than send troops into potentially hostile London, they would dispatch an expeditionary force northward in the new year; this would also give the chance for any nation to the north to make further exploration south.
During the wait, however, concerns were raised; a nation with the capability to operate helicopters, it was feared, must be reasonably well armed and could even possess the capability to launch bombing runs on Essex, against which the nation had no defence. Though it was decided the mission would still go ahead, as the winter continued the government and military began to press for a continually larger and well-armed force to be dispatched.
The mission finally began in March, with nearly two hundred soldiers and envoys and a large baggage train of supplies following the A12 from Colchester and toward Ipswich. Encountering no resistance as they passed the Alton Water Reservoir they continued on, eventually establishing a camp outside the A14. Medical concerns were raised, as weather patterns predicted fallout from the Felixstowe/Harwich bomb would have been deposited in noticeable levels in the area, but RADIAC readings suggested that the area was fairly safe. Taking refuge in the abandoned village of Copdock the troops weathered the night and prepared to enter Ipswich.
The first scouts in the city reported it empty and with heavy collateral damage, presumed to be caused by years of gang warfare. As the following parts of the military moved in, leading the baggage train, several small skirmishes broke out as raiders attempted to attack the party. However, no significant resistance was encountered – until the Essex party entered the town centre.
Unbeknownst to them a Woodbridge scout party was in the town at the same time, with strength of roughly eighty men on a routine annual examination of the state of the town. Seeing a well-armed, extremely large, and hitherto unrecognised group enter the town the scout party assumed that it was a new rogue army unit on the scene, and radioed for advice on how to proceed.
In a spectacular case of bad timing a new clan entered the scene, launching a massive attack on the stationary Essex soldiers. Woodbridge troops approaching the Essex detachment assumed that the battle was actually between their own men and the Essex troops, and rushed to attack. Only when they realised that it was in fact another clan attacking did they change the direction of the fire; but by that time the confusion had resulted in a mad three-way melee, the chaos only increased by additional members from other raiding parties arriving to investigate the slaughter.
By mid-afternoon the fighting had subsided with heavy casualties to all sides. The Essex unit, battered and shocked at the unexpected resistance that had resulted in over fifty deaths, decided to send a small group with a white flag toward the main enemy group: the Woodbridge camp.The Woodbridge troops were unused to seeing white flags – raiding parties tended to fight to the death. Taking in the Essex troops and interrogating them, they soon learned of the misunderstanding and offered to send what was left of their aid to help the Essex casualties. Soon the leaders of both parties were meeting on terse but peaceful terms in the centre of Ipswich and apologies were swapped. Agreeing to establish radio contact and with their casualties collected the two parties then departed to their home bases on marginally friendlier terms.
However, the initial misunderstanding soon turned to warm friendship after repeated radio contact between the two nations. By September the first earnest trade parties were being dispatched, crossing the Orwell Bridge (which had survived the years without maintenance) with messages of good will, people searching for separated family and friends, and a few envoys who would make frequent reports via radio. Since then the two nations have co-operated in restoring the bridge and the road link between their nations, increasing levels of trade and allowing families and friends to be reunited. As their first foreign contact and with extremely close proximity the two nations have extremely close contacts, and indeed Woodbridge has been a vessel through which Essex has learned of other nations such as the Celtic Alliance, East Britain, and indeed the world at large.
New Millennium, New Dawn
The arrival of the year 2000 was met with great applause across Essex. A decade of peace and the end of extreme poverty had given the nation the strength it needed to secure its national identity and solidify its position as a regional power. The A10 railway had been completed and extended along the M25 frontier; the Osea Island Reservoir had been constructed on the mouth of the Blackwater, and reconstruction efforts were beginning on Southend. The Construction Corps was now ten times its original size, allowing it to rapidly demolish and concrete over Southend, sealing the significant irradiated material (chiefly at the airport) underground.
The reconstruction of the town was the first time the Corps had been given a truly free reign. Teams of architects had designed open, grassy plazas and wide residential zones on the fringes of the city, leading toward a vast area of untouched space for future industrial and commercial projects, before the huge port complexes gazed out across the Thames Estuary. Many of the buildings are constructed from wood or concrete, though the abundance of materials left over from the demolition of the city are also used. The consequence is that, to this day, buildings in the city possess patchworks of older masonry for when wood or concrete could not be sourced.
With Essex firmly in control of its fate, the government turned its attention to the lands outside of the frontiers. Very little was known of London thanks to the silence of the raiders, and the population of Hertfordshire had been without aid for a long time. Some yearned to explore even further, to restore pleasure yachts and fishing trawlers and investigate the shorelines of Kent and even the Low Countries. Unsurprisingly, plans like these – at least in any official capacity – were shelved by the government, who wished to focus on exploration closer to home and supply of aid. In 2001 exploration parties were dispatched in Hertfordshire and London laden with food supplies and medical equipment.
Unfortunately the Essex explorers were not particularly welcome at either destination. Communities in Hertfordshire still remembered the slaving expeditions a decade before, and in London survivors had all-too-fresh memories of raiding parties. Only protracted diplomacy was able to convince the survivors in both locations of the humanitarian intentions of Essex.
Following the establishment of cordial relations the exploration parties sought to make themselves truly welcome. Engineers were recalled from the Corps to help locals with reconstruction processes, chiefly through generator installation to provide power, but also a variety of other means. Community centres were re-established to promote co-operation between the clans of London, and in Hertfordshire the clearance of overgrown roads won the affection of the locals by greatly easing trade between rural communities. The London clans were extremely grateful for the external aid, given that it ended nearly a generation of warfare that had destroyed much of East London, and many chose to establish their own councils and an assembly within the area. One of the most endearing memories Essex citizens have of the stabilisation of London is The Embrace, a famous photograph of a husband reuniting with his wife who had been stranded on an Essex business trip after Doomsday. Essex citizens were proud to know that they had helped to save and rebuild lives in the irradiated cesspool of London.
2005-2008: Fall of a Golden Age
The height of Essex’s fortunes came in 2005. Three years had passed since the effects of radiation contamination were noticed to have been rapidly falling and the fallout levels in the dangerous northwest and southeast were confirmed to be decreasing. The first television station reopened, broadcasting from the civilianised Kelvedon Hatch Bunker, simply named ‘The Channel’. Its first news report is interrupted by news that the population of Essex has finally surpassed one million again thanks to a combination of deformation-free childbirths and a steady flow of refugees from Hertfordshire and London. Many of these new citizens were given the chance to settle in Southend to work for opportunistic artisans keen to capitalise on the imminent rush of naval activity in the town.
However, the peace and prosperity of 2005 would mark a high point in Essex’s history. A lower harvest than expected that year caused some concern over the future of the now-heavily populated nation and the progress of rebuilding of the London and Hertfordshire protectorates. The following winter was harder than usual, with instances of starvation noticed in the Harwich area. As 2006 approached people remained optimistic, expecting that things would improve. In fact, it would see the most unexpected event in the nation’s history.
The government had finally decided to go ahead with plans to create a navy. Locating old boats and refurbishing them a small fleet of armed exploration vessels appeared in the marinas of Southend, with an entire warehouse converted to serve as the Essex Navy’s HQ. The first mission given to this navy was to land on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and make contact with any survivors, a task which was received with great enthusiasm. A force of three vessels, with forty men between them, was dispatched, on April 7th.
At 10:00 AM the task force radioed across that it had landed safely; two of the ships and their crews had gone ashore, whilst the remaining one stayed five hundred metres from the shore. But later the commander of the expedition reported that a number of men had failed to report back. Eyebrows were raised, but given the nature of the mission, it was not viewed as overtly suspicious. A patrol was dispatched to their last known co-ordinates at 11:16.
However, when these men failed to report, it was immediately realised something was disastrously wrong. Exactly what it was, the navy couldn't be sure; to be on the safe side, they sent twenty men, fully armed, in a wide arc around the position where the men had disappeared, within the industrial estate. However, they encountered no military threat; instead, all they found was a warehouse with a buckled roof. Two marines volunteered to look inside; they found all six sailors of the two prior patrols, unconscious and showing signs of extreme nausea, and even bleeding. The two marines retreated, but themselves soon succumbed to violent illness and slipped into unconsciousness. This news was reported back to Southend Command, and was to the horror of the naval authorities realised to be the result of radiation sickness. However, a chance transmitter breakdown left them isolated and, without any idea what to do, the troops in Sheerness decided to go back in once more, and find out what was happening. They quickly discovered a five metre-wide crater inside the rubble at the far end of the warehouse, surrounded by distinctive metallic fragments. They, too, reached the same conclusion: an unexploded nuclear warhead had buried itself into the ground and was emitting the radiation - and by being so close to it, were by far and away the worst affected. By the time Southend re-established radio contact the marines were nearly dead, and the men themselves were most likely fated to death due to proximity to the bomb. The men, who were poorly briefed in the effects of radiation poisoning, elected to send a number of personal messages before euthanizing themselves. The remaining sailors, downtrodden, returned to Southend and were rushed to a hospital in Basildon.
This news - the loss of twenty four men and women to a totally unexpected cause - greatly wounded the national ego. A follow-up expedition the next week, this time equipped for the rigours of a radioactive environment, managed to retrieve the bodies where they were given quiet burials at Southend. They also excavated the warhead and placed it in a sealed, lead-lined box; concrete was transported to Sheerness and the device, inside its warehouse, was concreted in and landscaped. Though they reported that the rest of Sheerness was safe for habitation, the news was swept away in the flood of disappointment that resulted from the tragedy of the first mission. Historians in 2009 concluded that the bomb, estimated to be in the fifty kiloton range, had been intended to destroy the ports at Sheerness and similarly destroy the shipping port and oil refinery of London Thamesport (which had closed in 1982); prior to the mission it had been thought these objectives had been achieved on Doomsday, though they later turned out to be from the destruction of the SS Richard Montgomery, a 1944 wreck that had been carrying 1,500lbs of explosives and had been disturbed by the events of September 26th, 1983.
The failed mission set the mood for the rest of 2007 – quiet, conservative, cautious. No major acts were passed by the Council; no radical increases in healthcare efficiency were made; no large expeditions were made into unknown territory. The year was spent in catatonia, as the nation recovered from the shock of the tragic mission that would remain a permanent blemish on the Navy's, and indeed the nation's history. There was, however, one benefit from the disastrous mission: Sheerness was found to possess a steel mini-mill, and its equipment was shipped back to Essex for appraisal and repair. Though much of the equipment had degraded, some was in good enough condition to be installed at a new (nationalised) steel mill in Southend, which over the following year was expanded with replicated equipment. For the first time Essex could now produce high-quality metal goods such as weapons en masse, though was still reliant on steel imports from Cleveland or scavengers finding usable steel throughout the countryside to be recycled.
As the population entered 2008 people once more began to look up, but without the same optimism they had carried in the previous decade. The Construction Corps returned to its project of dredging Maplin Sands around Southend so as to ease ship mobility to and from the ports and also made the radical moves of proposing a pair of hydroelectric dams; one from the Osea Island reservoir to cut off the rest of the Blackwater Estuary, and the other across the River Crouch to supply Southend with a surplus of energy for a planned future industrialisation.
But the country was reaching a bottleneck; building materials were running short in supply, and there were requests to formalise Essex’s control over London and Hertfordshire to secure mining and scavenging capabilities. Calls for armed explorations were heeded, and in October 2007 an expeditionary force was dispatched to secure a base in Luton.
The Black Winter and the War of 2008
News from the force never arrived. More than five hundred men simply disappeared in the unexplored regions beyond the Hertfordshire protectorates. A radio breakdown was impossible, since the force was carrying five and a simultaneous breakdown of all of them was inconceivable, leaving only one other explanation: the force had somehow been destroyed in one swift movement.
Paranoia began to set in across the Hertfordshire protectorates. Troops were shifted to the A10 fortresses (now known simply as ‘the frontier’, given that the entire road had been mostly overgrown), and patrols within Hertfordshire increased. Radios were dispensed to the local communities, and were ordered to make at least twice-daily call-ins to announce their presence and any suspicious activity. Even if it wasn’t directly threatened, every part of Essex was afraid of the mysterious threat in Hertfordshire.
But nothing came before winter – a winter that was unusually cold. Snow fell across the country, but especially on the paranoid communities of the border, who spent every night fearing an attack. In January their fears finally came true, but on a scale beyond their imagination.
Between January 7th and January 19th communities in Hertfordshire were ravaged. Every night another community would vanish and fail to respond to radio transmissions, and in the morning patrol parties would find it deserted, ransacked and in varying states of decay. A week after the attacks began a platoon dispatched to locate the attackers was found the next morning with wounds from both gunfire and hand-to-hand weaponry – and another village had been attacked. The news was kept secret, but spread panic throughout the military, which were nervous to deliver the news to the government; with no state secrecy act there was a full chance that the news passed to the highest echelons of power would spread quickly through the government and into the general population. However, when on the final night one of the border fortresses was destroyed and the enemy managed to cross the Frontier to ravage the villages surrounding Bishop’s Stortford the army knew that the danger could not be concealed.
The news brought panic to Essex. With news that several thousand people had disappeared in wake of the mysterious attacks the population implored the army to fully mobilise and head out to Luton, where the problems had begun. More than ten thousand men and women were called into service, and a government notice was released calling for citizens to hand in any weapons and armour they possessed, from hunting shotguns to air rifles to medieval suits of armour. The army was fully aware that they were dealing with an enemy that seemed to possess both modern firearms and older hand-to-hand weaponry, and had to be prepared for every opportunity. The main task force, of five thousand troops, would lead a campaign toward Luton to find what they could of the original task force, and establish a base at the town. The remaining troops would fan out to establish a safety net around the countryside.
They arrived in the town to discover it under the tyrannical rule of the ‘True British Army’, a racist and despotic horde of ex-military and ex-police units several thousand strong that terrorised and intimidated local populations into submission and supplying resources. Reporting back to Essex the army was given express orders to take any means necessary to return the kidnapped Essex citizens ‘up to and including destroying the local regime’.
The first act of the army was to launch a dawn raid into Luton, targeting anyone carrying a weapon and fighting into the town hall, where the English Empire had established control. The local governors were snatched and brought back to the camp, where they were subjected to brutal but justified torture to extract information on the whereabouts of the Essex citizens. Learning that the prisoners had been taken to Milton Keynes, the effective capital of the ‘Empire’, the Essex troops prepared to set out the next week. However, as they waited they also learned of the nature of their foe: teams of highly mobile and independent soldiers that patrolled several counties, stealing from the local population and demanding seemingly unachievable quotas of crops to support the military. At the same time these disparate and rogue groups could rapidly reform into organized and disciplined military divisions to resist enemies and conquer territories, inspired by their fierce devotion to a cadre of ‘general-governors’ – in other words, warlords.
Now aware of their foe, the Essex troops set out. But the Empire was prepared. As the army marched up the overgrown M1 they were ambushed by a force almost twice their size. Losing four hundred men – a third of their force – the Essex army was left with the dilemma to either continue into hostile territory or return to Luton and regain strength, whilst the Essex citizens suffered.
Eventually, it was decided to press the offensive. The battle had inflicted massive casualties on the enemy and it was decided that continuing the march would be preferable. Resting overnight in an embankment on the M1 they prepared for a dawn assault on February 29th. As the sun rose eight hundred Essex soldiers rushed the defence perimeter of Milton Keynes in silence, only making sound as they reached the outskirts of the town.
The crack of gunfire ripped across the town, rousing imperial troops who soon rushed to the streets with whatever weapons they could find. But by nine o’clock Essex troops already held the decisive advantage, holding most of the city’s outskirts, and were launching a massive assault on the city centre. As the imperial salient turned to a bulge and finally a pocket as an Essex pincer movement successfully encircled the surviving imperial troops they found themselves low on supplies and morale, as they were slowly routed from controlled streets. Despite intimate knowledge of their ‘throne city’ the imperial troops in Milton Keynes found themselves continuously retreating as hand-to-hand fighting for every house, shop and tunnel emerged. Eventually it was the Essex troops’ superior weaponry and tactics that prevailed, and as dusk set in the makeshift palace at the heart of the town was assaulted by Essex troops.
Forcing the empire into dissolution before executing the elites of the True British Army, Essex troops set about establishing control of the local area and defending against reprisals from imperial thugs. Radioing news of their success back to Essex the army then set about assisting the citizens of Milton Keynes in rebuilding their shattered city, and offered the locals the opportunity to immigrate to the borders of Essex. Several thousand agreed, and convoys of refugees prepared themselves along the M1 – soon joined by six hundred rescued Essex citizens, freed from a slave compound at Astwood. Remaining kidnapees were tracked down and by the end of the following year all those kidnapped by the True British Army had been returned, bar just under a hundred casualties.
The '09 High - Establishing an Air Force and building a LeagueThe return of the troops on March 7th brought cheers throughout the county. Triumphantly crossing the A10 Frontier and marching into Chelmsford the battered army (just over a third its original size) accepted the highest praise from local citizens and government officials. As the news rolled across Essex celebrations were held; the Essex Chronicle printed a special edition (simply entitled ‘Heroes’) to celebrate the return along with a comprehensive obituary for every casualty of the war.
The fever of patriotic pride was slow to lose its hold on Essex, and the successful harvest that year added to national fervour. The colonists from Milton Keynes added a much-needed element of dynamism into the slowly stagnating Essex professional circles, whose fresh ideas and willingness to work redoubled work on public projects and the restoration of services in Hertfordshire and London. New border stations were consolidated to repel the infrequent border raids from ex-imperial thugs, and a comprehensive road and rail grid was rolled out across the entirety of the areas claimed by Essex. The country was growing closer once more; and, as usual, it felt the need to explore.
The Navy, now freed from the guilt of its first mission, resumed exploration efforts upstream into the Thames, and out across the Thames Gateway. A few efforts were even made to scout out the coast of Europe, though little of consequence other than a few fishing communities were found. Content with their knowledge for now, Essex citizens returned to focusing on the future of their small nation.
One of the first things to follow the war was its intense analysis. One thing that almost immediately became clear was the lack of a clear technological edge on Essex's part, most notably in terms of air power. Had the military had access to any form of airborne forces during the war it would have been likely that the length of the war could have been curtailed drastically, and indeed might have prevented a large campaign - had aerial scouts been able to operate with the initial taskforce it would have been likely that the enemy would have been spotted before it made its attack, and valuable information transferred home. Furthermore during the war airborne forces would have been extremely useful for tactical bombing raids on enemy positions and strafing enemy defences. Unfortunately none of these were available, and it was immediately decided that should Essex ever return to large-scale conflict again it would require a fully operational airborne force.
Currently, however, Essex possessed nothing in the way of this. The closest it had to a scout force was a handful of hot air balloons that were rarely launched due to their age, and the best it had in terms of Close Air Support was the air force of Woodbridge, which had never actually been petitioned for help. If Essex were to be able to maintain an edge it would need its own force composed of the best equipment it could get.
Woodbridge was already off limits; the government had expressed on several occasions reluctance to sell any part of its air force to foreign countries for fear of damage to its precious craft. Production of heavier-than-air forms of transportation - helicopters, aeroplanes, and so on - would also be nearly impossible with Essex's current, primarily agriculturally-geared industry, and the upkeep of these vehicles would be almost inconceivable. But there was a solution which was as obvious as it was brilliant: airships. Originally ignored by the population as beyond the nation's industrial capacity and mostly useless, following the war people realised that they were Essex's only chance at vehicles which could be cheaply produced and maintained, had excellent ranges, could be used for ground-support, and also used for civilian purposes. Nonetheless, the ability to construct these still lay outside Essex's capacity: it would require foreign aid
It turned to the Kingdom of Prussia. The move was surprising, given the two nations complete lack of relations beyond acknowledging each other, but as the nation was home to the large and experienced New Zeppelin Company it was an ideal choice. Diplomats were dispatched to the company's headquarters in Potsdam, tasked to negotiate with the company executives for the transferal of experienced engineers to help set up the Essex industry and to supply a 'start-up fleet' of Grafzeppelin-model airships. Despite surprise at the offer which emerged out of the blue, the company accepted, and by Memorial Day the company was helping Essex begin its processes.
Whilst Essex began constructing the necessary facilities (a new airport over the abandoned RAF Boreham, a hydrogen manufacture plant at the Osea Reservoir, and a group of large Zeppelin hangars in Maldon) the Prussian experts set to training their proteges in the art of Zeppelin construction. The lessons did not always go well. The perceived arrogance of the Prussian experts and the nervous perfectionism of the Essex engineering teams resulted in several heated debates and arguments, as well as several walkouts. Nonetheless by July 2009 most of the necessary facilities were established and all the necessary knowledge passed on, allowing Essex to begin construction of her first two airships to complement the EAS (Essex Air Ship) Cavalier purchased from Prussia at the start of the programme.
This was not the only effect of the war, however. As well as seeing air power as a plausible means of reducing the length of the war, it was also readily apparent that had the other nearby countries contributed their strengths the enemy would have been overwhelmed far quicker. As such, Essex proposed a military alliance between itself and the two nearby powers of East Britain and Woodbridge. The plan, however, never came into fruition - but the concept of mutual aid between the 'Anglian states' soon became popular, and once news began to spread of the proposal it was realised by many that should the three nations co-operate they could open up new markets and greatly help their traders. The first calls for an economic union of this sort were heard in April; by September, they were reality, in the form of the Organisation of British Nations .
Over time this union of traders soon grew to have political influence. With the three powers co-operating they could make their voices heard much louder on the stage of the Euro-Atlantic Fringe as well as work to solidify control over the nearest territories. The organisation was rapidly evolving from a league of traders into a force that allowed the three nations to secure their local territories through military force and diplomacy with the tiny independent states that dotted the countryside; by June 2009 an entire branch of the OBN had been established specifically to propose and appraise plans to solidify peace and security over the Anglian countryside. Despite this, however, it still possesses no formal unified military, a point constantly decried by Essex.
2010 Invasions: Cultural and Military
The new year saw several changes. Openness between Essex and Woodbridge reached new highs, with the two nations freely exchanging manpower and goods. The neutral zone of Babergh which lay between the two nations began to play host to the post-Doomsday equivalent of bed-and-breakfasts, and with roads and railways re-established the flow of traders only increased. In April they submitted a joint bid to Sweden and Norway to purchase old freighters which could be repaired and redesigned to act as long-range multipurpose vessels for the navies of the two nations. The bid was successful, with ten purchased from Sweden and four offered as gestures of goodwill from Norway, divided equally amongst Essex and Woodbridge. Though these vessels took time to arrive and suffered several minor malfunctions on their way, they all arrived in ports before the end of the month and were put up for repair, with tentative completion dates for the first vessels in late autumn.
As summer approached co-operation geared up a notch. Essex finally settled its long-standing issue of establishing a currency by agreeing to adopt the New Pound (N£), as used by Woodbridge for several years. It was agreed by the two nations that though Essex would have independent designs for its coinage, the currency would still hold as legal tender in both countries. The move passed by a very slender majority of 67% on April 26th, with mints established by May 29th in Braintree. The currency was formally adopted on June 1st. In a ceremonial move, the Woodbridge ambassador to Essex and the Essex ambassador to Woodbridge both went to a shop in their host nations to buy an item worth N£10. These, unfortunately, did not go quite to plan; in Woodbridge, the shopkeeper gave the wrong change, and in Essex, the Woodbridge ambassador's speech on economic closeness was interrupted by hecklers who were afraid that Woodbridge was attempting to dominate Essaxon affairs. These men were promptly arrested though released that night.
But 2010's biggest news was, by far and away, an invasion of a very different kind. On June 1st, with attention diverted to the ceremonies around the New Pound, Essex and Woodbridge launched a joint invasion into west Suffolk. The area had long been known for harbouring hostile clans, but was also important as it represented a significant area of arable land. The two nations unified their military power hoping for an easy attack - though, in fact, they were in for a slog tougher than they could imagine. The area was not just inhabited by hostile clans: it was controlled by members of Essex's foe of two years: the True British Army. What was meant to take a week stretched out to well over a fortnight as Essex and Woodbridge troops fought tooth and nail for the well-fortified territories, sustaining huge casualties, particularly when it came to assaults by Essex on the towns of Haverhill and Newmarket. Eventually, though, the districts of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath were pacified, with only Bury St Edmunds still under TBA control. However, the invasion plan had several serious flaws. For one, the invaded territories had no defensible borders. Essex and Woodbridge were already investing in reconstructing the entire area; they could hardly afford a fort system to accompany it. Several towns represented viable centres of TBA resistance, such as Soham and Ely. Instead, they were forced to amend their plans for one final assault. Just a few miles from Forest Heath flowed the River Great Ouse, a wide and useful border. However, with the TBA now fully alerted to their plans, Essex and Woodbridge now knew they would be in for a challenge, and so decided to call in extra help: East Britain. Soon, a viable battle plan was worked out. Essex would spread its manpower out to allow a quick assault up to the banks of the Great Ouse, capturing Soham and the southern side of Cambridge. Woodbridge would launch an attack into Norfolk, hugging the west bank of the Great Ouse, to make sure that travel on the river was secure and to provide a base for future attacks into Norfolk. East Britain's offensive would take its armies southward, capturing the Isle of Eels and the city of Ely, before double-backing to attack King's Lynn.Though the attacks were successful, for Essex they came at a terrible cost. On June 20th a massive enemy incursion encroached upon its territories in Hertfordshire, attacking the 'weak link' in its A10 fortresses east of Royston. This army of some 9,000 men wreaked havoc in the area and succeeded in capturing the towns of Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Saffron Walden. The four-day invasion spread panic throughout Essex and for the first time prompted the full-scale draft of Essex's pool of citizens deemed eligible for military service. However, when Essex returned to the offensive it managed to route its foes; after the costly Second Battle of Saffron Walden on June 23rd, which saw most of the town destroyed, troops were moved to Great Dunmow for what was perceived to be the start of a long and brutal battle for the Hertfordshire territories. By astounding chance, however, a dawn assault in the direction of Bishop's Stortford by Essex troops encountered the bulk of the TBA invaders; a long and bloody battle followed, but by its end the enemy had been utterly crushed with comparatively minimal Essex casualties, who managed to completely destroy the rest of the invading force in a single day. Essex was safe once more - and when news came that Essex commandos had managed to locate and destroy the TBA's leadership, throwing it into anarchy, it appeared that the nation's security was guaranteed for the foreseeable future. Any remaining jitters were settled as the siege of Bury St Edmunds ended on July 27th.
Victorious troops were given, as usual, a rapturous applause as they paraded through Chelmsford on the 30th of June, this time accompanied with a confetti barrage dropped from the EAS Cavalier overhead. Troops were decorated by High Minister Lee Evans who made, as usual, a boisterous and crowd-pleasing speech, congratulating the troops on 'a month of glory' and thanking Essex's allies for their co-operation and assistance, concluding with the announcement that June 30th would become a new national holiday: Victory Day. However, a one-minute silence was also held, in honour of those who had fallen in the battles for the new territories.In recent months Essex has been working hard to repair its new territories. The government has offered substantial grants (the New Pound currently holding high value for Essaxons) to citizens willing to relocate and settle in the new territories, hoping to ease its chronic overpopulation problem. At the same time there have been a few legal issues as Essex and Woodbridge settle debates over law in the new Codominion of West Suffolk, though these are amicable, with much of the effort being placed on rehabilitating the populations of these regions into civilized society.
Between July 3rd and July 10th Lee Evans, Mark Bee, and King William along with a large retinue and only token guards walked on foot from Spalding to Southend via Ely, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket, Sudbury, Chelmsford, and Billericay. It was intended to demonstrate that people could walk with confidence from one nation to the next, and it worked, drawing large crowds and media attention. On July 28th engineers were proud to announce that they had completed the first rail line all the way from Haverhill to Ely, meaning that for the first time goods could be transported directly from Anchor Harbour in East Britain to households in Essex and Woodbridge.
Current attention in Essex is centred on rebuilding the Codominion and, additionally, its territories in Hertfordshire. It had been suggested that Saffron Walden be preserved as a memorial to the war, and ensure that Essaxons never forget its cost. The military supports this move, though it is also erring toward establishing a monument at Takeley to record the fantastic victory that occurred there.
The latter half of 2010 was dotted with high-profile events for the Essaxons, whilst they quietly recovered from the war. The first of these was the establishment of the Chartered Company of Sheppey , composed of several hundred individuals who moved onto a Kentish island on the far side of the Thames Estuary with the intent of gaining a niche in the textiles and meat-distribution markets. For several weeks in late August and September transport ships criss-crossed the River Thames, delivering people and supplies to the new colony. Though there were some disappointments over the richness of the livestock in the area, Sheppey representatives nonetheless say that they are confident of success and are beginning a careful husbandry programme to maximise profits.
However, the attention lavished on the Sheppey settlers soon dissolved with the arrival of King Andrew of New Britain, who spent a fortnight in the core OBN nations on the first official visit between New Britain and the homeland. Arriving via the Southern English hovercraft IRV Isle of Wight the King spent six days in Essex itself, his itinerary including delivering a speech in Chelmsford and touring the battlefield at Takeley. The media attention relating to the event managed to broadcast to the world much of Essex life, and in a handful of cases managed to bring in a scattering of trade offers from adjacent nations. However, these were dwarfed by the possibility of establishing a trade link from New Britain all the way to the Homeland, with economic benefits for all states in between. Though the idea, raised by King Andrew, was not discussed in any serious detail, it was enough to cause a small boom in the Essex economy at the time.
At the tail end of the economic surge came a new development. For several years Essex had held patchy jurisdiction over Hertfordshire, though it was strong in the areas between the A10 frontier and the A1. In November, Essex formally annexed these areas into the nation, swelling its official territory by a sixth up to 1865 square miles, and gave it a total width of nearly 64 miles. The administrative centre of the new territory was selected as Stevenage, which would be developed into a fortress and market town. The area had a reasonable amount of urbanisation, being located in the London commuter belt, but years of neglect had made the edges of several towns vague; places such as these were selected by the government to be partially demolished, with their materials recycled into construction projects across the new territory and in the Codominion. Local response to the developments was mixed; whilst many were happy that they would now benefit strongly from being a true part of Essex, some feared that the representation they would have in the Assembly would be minimal and sidelined. In Essex, however, citizens were generally pleased about the development. Some, however, noted that the movement toward annexation was driven primarily by the zealous expansionist Jim Barker-McCardle, whose powerful arguments often left High Minister Lee Evans speechless, which some consider to be signs that Evans may face a real challenge in the elections next year.