The Invasion of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath by Essex and Woodbridge is an ongoing military operation in the British Isles. As such, the information below is subject to rapid change. The invasion began at 3:00 AM following prolonged buildups by Essex and Woodbridge ground and air troops over the past week.
Before the Invasion
Prior to the invasion St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath represented a reasonable security risk to the two nations. Intelligence had confirmed that, though weak in number, remnants of the True British Army were operating out of the area, and had launched dozens of harassing raids into both countries. Securing the territories would guarantee a degree of security to the more important heartland territories of Woodbridge and Essex's northern border. There was also an element of expansionism, in that it would secure Woodbridge valuable new development areas. However, the task of conquering the area would be difficult for Woodbridge alone, even with its air force, and a piecemeal conquest of the area would allow the enemy to regroup and make the next assault continually harder.
In consequence Woodbridge authorities turned to Essex. The latter country had a much larger ground-based military and an industrial core to match. Given the history of close cooperation between the two nations in the past there was little reason for Essex to refuse Woodbridge's request for support. Unsurprisingly the two countries came to agreement, though decided that there was no need to bring in mutual tertiary ally East Britain given its vastly inferior military. The date was set for June 1st, the same day as Essex would switch over to the New Pound currency, the justification being any hostile groups in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath with radios would hear the news but assume that nothing else would happen the same day.
The Week Before
News of troops building up near Sudbury and Diss was easily suppressed by the military thanks to the limited degree of communication in the areas. Movement towards the areas was made along the most inconspicuous routes possible; though unlikely, it was possible that spies from within the Invasion Zone could be watching, and the military did not want to take any chances. Intelligence had reported that of the population in the area an estimated 20% would resent the invasion, but only half that number would actually take arms. Again, military officials remained cautious.
For the most part the operation would be a fairly routine expansion mission, though on a scale never attempted before by either Essex or Woodbridge. It would be the first time the main body of Essex's military had been committed to aggressive action since 2008, though they were prepared. The only major 'first' was that it would be the first mission of the EAS Cavalier, Essex's sole airship. The vessel was loaded out with ammunition and medical equipment; this is to be ferried to invading troops and, if necessary, the ship will also be used for close air support (though Woodbridge's airborne division has been designated this as their primary task).
Tuesday, June 1st
Initially the invasion was easy. Communities close to the borders were eager to join, welcoming troops in and providing them with information. Only three conflicts were reported, all with no casualties, at 6:58, 7:12, and 8:18 AM. Throughout most of the morning no conflict was reported, with forward scouts and airborne patrols reporting a lack of civilian movement.
By lunchtime, however, it was noted there was an increasing amount of resistance. Essex soldiers in Little Thurlow reported that the village had been abandoned, seemingly minutes before troops had arrived, though a helicopter sweep over the area reported no visual sightings of movement. At 13:17 Woodbridge soldiers near Ixworth found themselves under a mixture of arrow, shotgun, and rifle fire. Two armoured cars managed to locate and destroy the source of the opposition - sixteen men - but not before six Woodbridge soldiers had died and another fourteen injured.
As troops progressed further it became clear that resistance was growing heavier. A combined Essex-Woodbridge group at Whepstead reported being attacked by at least fifty enemy troops with hand-to-hand weaponry, and with an unknown number providing fire support from a nearby wood, at 13:52. Again the raid was beaten off, this time by a combination of helicopter support and a pincer assault made by a nearby unit, but with seventeen dead and thirty-nine wounded it was clear that troops were less than welcome.
Seven more attacks were reported, with sixty-eight dead for Essex, forty-four dead for Woodbridge, and at least a hundred for local forces. Military command ordered troops to entrench overnight and resist any further assaults. Artillery was soon stationed close behind to offer fire support, in case the enemy had regrouped by the morning. Meanwhile elite troops and intelligence units were attempting to learn about and disrupt the enemy's movements.
Wednesday, June 2nd
The morning began with troops emerging from their trenches to reinforce beachheads secured by forward units overnight. There were no casualties in the early morning, though troops reported encountering numerous villages that had been rapidly abandoned, sometimes with dead or the heavily wounded left there. These people are currently receiving treatment in rear hospitals established in Babergh.
By 9:00 AM resistance was increasing, with several villages encountered by Essex surrendering immediately but with intensely uncooperative citizens. Some of these people decided to talk, however, and were able to reveal that there was some sort of military junta in the area, though of what size they could not say. This, combined with intelligence reports, suggested that True British Army units were operating in the area as feared, but there was no completely solid proof.
At 10:32 AM a Woodbridge company reported it had been surrounded and was under heavy attack approximately a mile east of Pakenham. At roughly 10:36 AM its radio was destroyed, though the unit's commander had reported they were under attack with the normal combination of arrows, spears, and smatterings of gunfire. A helicopter managed to arrive and open up the rearward flank of the unit, but by the time the unit had managed to retreat it had sustained twenty deaths. An emergency military council was held to discuss the proposition of growing resistance.
Soon after the battle the same helicopter that had come to the rescue of the Woodbridge unit was tasked on a reconnaissance flight over Bury St Edmunds. At 11:13 AM it reported that ground troops were firing at it, but their weapons failed to strike the craft. Ordered not to resist unless it was absolutely necessary the helicopter continued to survey the area, reporting that there appeared to be several hundred men and women on the east side of the town that appeared to be digging a trench network. The far side of the town appeared to be more sparsely defended, instead being several sq mi of farmland, with what appeared to be columns of soldiers marching in. Strategists suggest that the sooner this town is taken, the better, as it clearly is a bastion of local defence.
On the southern Essex flank, however, little contact was reported. At 16:26 PM a small skirmish occurred between a dozen Essex soldiers and an estimated twenty enemy units; three of the Essex men were wounded, one seriously, whilst on the enemy's side nine received injuries, with two of these men injured. Disturbingly, when the Essex troops advanced to the hillock the enemy had been defending, and managed to force the survivors to surrender, they found that eleven of their enemy were boys aged as young as eight. They were rounded up and marched to a temporary internment camp, whilst their injured were carried off on the EAS Cavalier.
Forward scouting units reported that the enemy had entrenched several positions on their southern flank and had made numerous retreats in other areas. At 22:13 PM it was confirmed that a group of armoured cars had managed to cut off a retreating population of villagers with minimal resistance, leading them back to Woodbridge lines. These prisoners were sorted into hostile and friendly elements; only a few fell into the hostile category, and all but three of those refused to speak. The 'friendly' group was given comfortable overnight accommodation. That night saw similar tactics to those of the prior evening, with the main body of troops entrenching whilst forward groups seized valuable beachheads.
Thursday, June 3rd
In the morning troops rushed to secure forward bastions that had been gained overnight. Along Essex's front fighting for these forward positions had been fierce, with twelve casualties overnight in proximity to Haverhill. The EAS Cavalier, as it flew out the wounded, offered light fire on a disorganised rabble of enemy troops from the direction of Haverhill, and on its return surveyed the town. It was confirmed that there was a major enemy presence in the area, and had managed to entrench their southern flank. Immediately troops were ordered to try to capture as much land to the east and west of the town to facilitate a pincer maneuver and take the town without casualties that would be inflicted by a frontal assault on the new trenches. The morning was marked by several minor skirmishes as two columns of Essex soldiers obligingly tried to cover as much land as possible.
For Woodbridge conditions were more favourable. Particularly in their northernmost sector communities were welcoming the troops and offering useful tactical advice, announcing that 'tax collectors' from their 'patron' clan arrived daily at noon. Though it was considered likely that these collectors had been shuffled into a military capacity elsewhere, the local Woodbridge commander had troops positioned on the collectors' normal route. Despite thoughts they would be elsewhere they arrived on time and, without bloodshed, were captured by the troops. These men later divulged that they were members of one of at least a dozen clans that occupied northern areas of St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath. These clans had love-hate relationships with the predominant True British Army groups, which they reckoned numbered between one and two thousand men and boys capable of carrying arms and another two thousand or so peasants. The clansmen offered to return and try to convince their warlord to cooperate with Woodbridge troops, though the Woodbridge men demanded that half of their number remain to ensure that the warlord wouldn't try 'anything sneaky'. At 13:44 PM the clansmen disappeared, and have not been heard of as of yet.
The news was ferried across the lines. Though it offered no solid assistance it did raise the morale of men, particularly since they were encountering more and more of the True British Army's scorched earth tactics and finding more determined and faster-hitting resistance. The joint Essex-Woodbridge group operating from Babergh found themselves subject to repeated hit-and-run raids, causing twelve deaths of their own but inflicting no wounds upon the enemy. An extra helicopter was repositioned over the advance.
As the afternoon continued Essex troops found themselves ready for their assault on Haverhill. The enemy had made several futile raids on their advance column but now that it was filling with troops the number of these attacks was growing thinner. At 14:29 PM the commander of the Essex troops dispatched runners announcing they were ready to begin the flanking attack; aided by four of Woodbridge's tanks, two on each flank, the assault began. Artillery fire began at 14:37 PM on the trenches to the south of Haverhill, partly to soften up the number of troops in the town and partly as a diversionary assault. It worked, allowing Essex troops to enter the town by 14:39 and secure the outer sections.
Immediately True British Army troops moved to attack, luring the Essex troops into drawn-out hand-to-hand battles inside buildings that caused severe casualties for both sides. This was mostly a stalling tactic as most of the town's population was armed and thrust into combat, using human wave assaults to surround and destroy groups of Essex troops. These methods were brutally effective, causing a hundred and fifty casualties in under half an hour and forcing the assault back several hundred metres, particularly on the western flank. Though the general rule for the entire offensive was to cause minimum casualties the local commander was given clearance to use necessary force, at 15:03 ordering artillery to bombard the centre of the town and hopefully damage the local command structure.
This strategy was only marginally effective, however, given the devolved, pack-mentality behaviour of the Haverhill defenders. It was not until 15:11 that the battle finally began to turn as armoured cars - and most importantly, tanks - entered the battle. Rather than requiring Essex troops to risk their lives in close-quarters combat to flush buildings free of archers, the offending buildings could simply be blasted away with heavy cannon fire, and approaching swarms of the defenders swept away with machine gun fire. By 15:18 the assault had resumed and was now much closer to victory, with troops managing to meet up on the northern flank. Their forces now combined the two groups could concentrate on pushing the enemy into the range of artillery fire, and after beating off another wave of assaults the enemy finally surrendered at 15:33. The Essex flag was raised over the remnants of the town hall as survivors were rounded up and started on long marches to prison camps.It was a Pyrrhic victory, though, costing two hundred and two Essex lives and six hundred and nineteen lives of the locals - lives that the Essex troops were supposed to be protecting. In spite of this it still provided the men with their first real battle of the invasion, and the information on enemy tactics was soon being heavily examined by military commanders to discover a weakness in the enemy's tactics for an eventual assault on Bury St Edmunds. That night troops secured the lines around Haverhill with several companies were diverted into establishing a pair of forward thrusts around Bury St Edmunds, with the hope of cutting it off and besieging the city.
Friday, June 4th
The first movements of the morning were met with heavy enemy resistance in the Haverhill area. Determined to prevent another bloody massacre in the area Essex immediately rerouted troops into securing the region north of the town, with two hundred extra soldiers posted to the area by 6:00 AM. These troops came in useful as thirteen skirmishes were reported throughout the morning, each involving at least twenty enemy units operating from heavily entrenched positions. Casualties were noticeable, with thirty eight Essex troops dead and two armoured cars written off.
Elsewhere the morning was less difficult. At 10:11 AM troops operating out of Babergh came across a village. Enemy troops had fortified the area but appeared to be preoccupied; it soon emerged to the surprise of Essex-Woodbridge troops that a large number of civilians was attempting to rush through a village to the Woodbridge lines, in an attempt to escape. Strongly aware that they could not let the civilians be massacred as they attempted to cross the blockade the advancing troops, who numbered only sixteen, managed to creep from house to house and take out an enemy force nearly double their size, in the process seizing several weapons and allowing the refugees to pass by into safe hands. The battle ended at 10:20 AM with no casualties or injuries to the Essex-Woodbridge side.
Northwards resistance was even more scant. Woodbridge troops had managed to secure a non-aggression agreement with several of the northern clans overnight, giving them free reign over an area equivalent to roughly a dozen sq mi. This provided a strong northern bastion from which to outflank enemy forces - and also provided access to the ruins of the joint air base Lakenheath-Mildenhall. RADIAC readings showed the area to be on the threshold of safety for human habitation; nonetheless, so far it has been given wide berth by approaching troops.
After midday the main field of battle slipped away from the Essex frontline and into the Woodbridge zone. The attempt to create a pair of salients to outflank and surround Bury St Edmunds found itself encountering intense resistance. Primitive explosive devices hidden in villages detonated as troops were passing through, releasing shrapnel that caused heavy casualties. Uncannily accurate sharpshooters lay in wait for troops as they passed down roads, killing three or four men at a time then disappearing into the thick undergrowth only to reappear later (these troops have already gained the moniker 'Robin Hoods'). Gradual attrition of manpower meant that by 15:00 forward units had vastly overstretched themselves and were incapable of advancing further. Woodbridge authorities, unsure of whether to commit even more of their limited resources to an extremely fragile hold, instead ordered troops to immediately begin entrenching and wait for further reinforcements.
Tragically this order came just too late. At 15:13 contact was lost with one company of troops in the southern salient. A pair of armoured cars dispatched to the area discovered only twenty survivors huddled together in an old farmhouse, all of whom were wounded. As reinforcements rushed into the area and the troops were flown by the EAS Cavalier to safety disturbing evidence was found: dozens of savaged corpses scattered across the area. Most shocking was a cluster of bodies mutilated almost beyond recognition and hung from a farmhouse - close inspection showed that these corpses all belonged to non-white troops, most of whom were descended from the original Bentwaters-Woodbridge garrison. Disgusted troops were reminded that they weren't just in the area for conquest - they were fighting against a dangerous racist organization. (Later examination of the bodies by army medics and military intelligence led to the revelation that one of the victims was Sergeant Eric Maxwell, son of Albert Maxwell, leader of the Veteran's Party)
By evening troops had advanced, on average, a mile of territory, with a hundred and seventeen dead. Though news of the Salient Atrocity was kept quiet it was becoming clear all across the lines that they were fighting a much more determined and organized enemy than they had first expected. At the same time, however, the invading troops were slowly growing more aware of the enemy's tactics and their own strength. Rather than expecting the next day to be an easy task troops began to prepare for thorough resistance, and inspired by the sound of artillery strikes on suspected enemy positions vectored in by helicopters, readied for the next day.
Saturday, June 5th
In contrast to the previous day Saturday's events were far more peaceful. To the surprise and suspicion of troops advancing on nearly all fronts enemy resistance seemed to have dried up, with large numbers of civilians flocking across the front line to safety. Skirmishes did occur and Robin Hoods continued to strike down unwary patrols, but for the most part casualties were minimal. In several places attacking bands found themselves hotly pursued by pairs of armoured cars and helicopters, terminating them before they could seep into the dense forests that had sprung up across St Edmundsbury in the absence of civilization. The only large battle that occurred on the majority of the front line was in the combined Essex-Woodbridge zone at 13:17, when advancing troops found themselves under heavy fire from a trench system between two woods and with a flooded field in front. A forward scout group fell prey to a bomb placed beside the only road leading towards the position; it appeared that another route would have to be found.
But luck was on the side of the troops; one of Woodbridge's tanks was in the area, and at 13:26 arrived on the area. Using its machine gun to suppress enemy fire Essex-Woodbridge troops were able to advance beside and behind the tank. As soon as they were in range the tank opened fire with its cannon on the trench and the troops rushed the position, crossing barricades and flushing out the enemy troops in the area in brutal hand-to-hand combat. However the enemy's resistance soon faltered and the few survivors either surrendered or were shot down as they retreated. Only two men, both from Essex, were killed in the attack.
But the placidity that covered most of the line was shattered at the centre of the advance. Troops surrounding Bury St Edmunds found themselves under astounding pressure as enemy troops appeared to swarm the area, appearing and disappearing throughout the thick undergrowth and woodland that surrounded the town. Camouflaged enemy soldiers would appear out behind trees and attack unwary squads with shotguns, before rushing in to finish them off with swords and heavy clubs. To make the advance even more difficult in many places scrap metal had been deliberately tangled into the undergrowth, hampering movement on foot and making movement for armoured cars impossible. Constant attrition of forces meant that, by 16:00, the southern salient had been almost totally lost. An emergency conference of Essex and Woodbridge commanders led them to decide that they could either face irretrievable damage on the southern salient or concentrate their efforts in the northern salient and hope that the town could be taken from just one side. Reluctantly picking the latter troops were immediately pulled out, with helicopters and the EAS Cavalier dispatched to hasten the evacuation. Their retreat came just in time as heavy rain set in, making movement in the area virtually impossible. On the way back the helicopters were ordered to examine and photograph Bury St Edmunds for evaluation; results showed an intensifying of enemy activity and an expansion of the trench system on the northern and eastern flanks. Further progress in the area was halted for the rest of the day, though additional troops were pushed into the northern salient.
Overnight military command experimented with a different tactic. Troops were ordered to cease expanding at the usual 21:00, but then resume at 23:30 and cover as much ground as possible. Casualty rates drastically dropped with almost no enemy resistance late at night, and in many places troops were able to advance as much as five km before they stopped again at 03:00 on Sunday. Military command reported being proud that the tactic had worked, but wary that now the enemy might be aware of its effects and would attempt to stall it, making it likely to be less effective should it be attempted again.
Sunday, June 6th
Following the early-morning assault troops were granted a brief respite, starting their assault at 09:00 rather than the usual 06:00. It was reasoned by military command that the additional three hours would give troops a much-needed break to lift their spirits and ensure that they would be rested and alert in case they had to fight for the territories they had gained overnight. Not all units resumed at 09:00; some commanders decided to send their troops out a few minutes early, a situation that in some places on the line led to troops mobilising up to half an hour early as inter-unit rivalry came into play.
Initially resistance was minimal. However, this soon changed and began with a terrifying change in enemy tactics. At 09:56 an Essex unit progressing from a recently-secured village found itself under attack from what appeared to be alcohol bombs and Molotov cocktails. Though normally such devices would not have been particularly effective against ground troops these bombs had been loaded with rusty nails, turning them into potent anti-personnel devices. After beating back the enemy troops the wounded were evacuated to a nearby field hospital where medics examining the bombs discovered the nails had been contaminated with blood, toxins, and most likely various disease samples. They immediately realised that if these tactics became commonplace casualty rates would be drastically increased both in the initial attack and through later infection. After military commanders convened to share the news they immediately decided to put in bids to friendly nations with strong pharmaceutical industries to request additional shipments of vaccines and cures for their troops (Essex possessed a pharmaceutical industry but it was primarily herbology-geared).Not long after the 'Battle of the Nails' was over troops across the Essex and Essex-Woodbridge advancement zones reported increased attacks. None, thankfully, used nailbombs, but even without this they managed to inflict significant casualties, killing or wounding some 10% of the troops on the line (fortunately many of the wounded were able to rejoin their units by the end of the day). With this came the increasing temptation by troops on the line and local commanders to use more extreme force - specifically, bombing runs by Woodbridge's HC-130 craft on suspected enemy positions. High Command was forced to disagree, as their battle was a much a physical one as it was a war for the hearts and minds of the local population who would soon be inducted into the mainstream culture of Essex and Woodbridge. However, a single attack was made, by a pair of HC-130s equipped with GP bombs, at 12:44 against a well-dug in fortified complex three miles north of Bury St Edmunds. Even after a protracted artillery bombardment that had lasted for a day the area had failed yield and was continuing to inflict heavy casualties on approaching Woodbridge troops, prompting a strong attack. The enemy, thankfully, was destroyed, and supported by armoured cars Woodbridge troops manage to conquer the fort complex and resume its assault. It is expected that the assault on the town proper will involve an airstrike.
By the end of the day troops had advanced, on average, another mile, and taken in approximately four hundred refugees and killed around one hundred and fifty enemy units.
Monday, June 7th
At around 7am Woodbridge troops advancing into the village of Great Barton, a few miles north of Bury St Edmunds got somewhat of a shock. A member of one of the local clans had told them that the village had a (comparatively) large garrison of TBA troops. However when the the forward units entered the village they found the TBA had deserted the village but as many as a dozen troops fell victim to various booby-traps. It was felt that the TBA troops had left the village to form part of the force that would be defending Bury St Edmunds. They had however moved very quickly as a Woodbridge helicopter had seen them in the village the day before and some of the enlisted men became very suspicious of how quickly. News of the Salient Atrocity had permeated through to all the units in the Woodbridge zone and some of the soldiers started to voice the opinion that some of the supposed "friendly" local clans will still actually in cahoots with the TBA, an opinion that gained credence when it was discovered that the clan member who had told them about Great Barton was nowhere to be found.
Even so, the clans represented a major strategic advantage of Woodbridge troops, as (for the most part) they allowed Woodbridge troops to move freely across their territories and were able to catch several TBA units unawares. One such situation was the spectacular, even tragic, victory of the 'Battle of the Pitchforks', waged three miles northwest of Bury St Edmunds between an estimated hundred enemy units and just four armoured cars at 14:31-14:37. The area was site of a small TBA farming village, as identified on helicopter recon flights. The armoured cars were tasked to force a surrender of the enemy. As expected, however, the locals were less than satisfied, and soon were up in arms against the approaching armoured cars. But the great advantage was that, since the cars had used clan territory, they were able to approach the village from the opposite direction expected. With what little time they had the locals took up what weapons they could - farming equipment - and tried to charge the armoured cars. Unsurprisingly they were cut down by the machine guns mounted on the cars and in minutes the enemy rush had been completely stalled, with over half the locals killed. At this point the commanding officer of the armoured car unit forced (or, according to witnesses, begged) the enemy to stop their 'futile attack' before there was further needless bloodshed. Thankfully, most agreed, and the handful that still opted to resist were strung up their former comrades before they could worsen the situation. The battle killed some thirty five of the enemy with absolutely no cost to the Woodbridge troops whatsoever, a victory hampered only by the fact that their enemies occupied the grey area between hostiles and civilians.
Skirmishes of this sort were present all down the line. For Essex, though, they were growing comparatively light, the reason being that by 15:00 their advance had outflanked the joint Essex-Woodbridge central front and there was hardly any room for them to be assaulted. As this was realised troops were immediately shuffled about across the line to increase overall unit density and make the advance even stronger. This was particularly important in the northwest of the Essex zone, as troops were massing for an assault on Newmarket, located in a spit off of the main area of St Edmundsbury. Armoured cars, tanks, and helicopters were shifted into the area to ensure that the advance would this time be better supported and hopefully less costly than the Haverhill debacle. This meant that, at least on parts of the line, troops were afforded an early end to the day's advances (though many were put into an advance to ensure that Essex would have a wide front to attack Newmarket from). Across the entire front line confidence was beginning to grow again as it was realised that some two thirds St Edmundsbury had been pacified in only a week - but around Newmarket, troops were still nervous, fearing another bloodbath of the calibre they had encountered in Haverhill.
Tuesday, June 8th
As the sun rose spirits across the lines were generally high. The enemy was pulling out of St Edmundsbury and trying to take everything it could with it, in the process massively hampering the speed of their retreat. In dozens of places across the line between 06:00 and 09:00 True British Army rearguard actions were surrounded and forced to surrender, with the light drizzle only slightly dampening the troops' spirits. Even the first thrusts into Forest Heath were having a relatively easy time, and though several battles occurred in all instances the enemy was too unprepared to offer any real resistance and were quickly forced to retreat or surrender. Indeed in some places there was no need to advance at all, such as on the west flank of Essex's advance.
But just a few miles north of the tranquility and relaxation of the troops on the west flank nearly a thousand troops were massing in nervous fear of what what soon arrive. Newmarket had been designated as one of the most important targets of the invasion, along with Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds, as they would represent important command posts for both invading troops and local defenders. Once the area had been secured they would also be important administration and repopulation centres, and the less infrastructure damaged in the process of controlling them the better. This left commanders and tacticians the unfortunate dilemma of trying to figure out how to defeat what would be a well dug-in enemy, which would most likely large amounts of damage to the town to flush them out, whilst preserving the lives of their own men and the population and infrastructure of Newmarket. They knew that they could not afford a rushed invasion today, which would at least allow the troops preparing to invade a brief amount of time to rest and recuperate ready for the combat, and to acquire important aerial reconnaissance (and if necessary bombard the town), but it went without saying that delaying the assault too long would allow the enemy to prepare himself to the point where he would be almost invulnerable to any attacks prioritising minimum collateral damage. Local commanders worked tirelessly all day and night to prepare a viable battle plan, all the time unsure of whether it would work, and whether they were mapping out the greatest defeat for Essex of the entire war.
Instead, much of the day's combat was directed around the narrowing sliver of St Edmundsbury not already secured. However, this began to become a slowly more difficult task as enemy resistance began to grow. It was soon determined that this wasn't as much a final stand by the enemy in St Edmundsbury as it was a defensive action against a corridor of enemy men and materiel moving to and from Bury St Edmunds. Unfortunately the enemy had managed to disperse his troops so effectively that none of the three airstrikes on the transport routes ordered between 11:45 and 13:30 inflicted any damage at all, let alone anything substantial. Only a few armoured cars and troops riding bareback on stolen horses were able to attack the main supply route, which was estimated to have moved as much as two thousand men, women and children into and out of the town. At 14:00 an attack by two Woodbridge companies was planned, intended at the very least to stall the movement on the 'Bury Trail' and hopefully able to create an effective roadblock.
But the advance did not go as well as planned. At 14:21 one unit of thirty men decided to launch a surprise attack on a convoy of horse-drawn carts with a scant escort. They opened fire, panicking the horses, but to their horror found the rooves of the carts fly off and dozens of additional TBA men emerge, guns blazing and arrows flying. The attacking troops were forced back into the woods on either side of the path, but within seconds the TBA men had opened up their cart of nail bombs and were rushing after the retreating Woodbridge troops. As the woods filled with the dull thuds of exploding nail bombs twenty of the thirty soldiers were cut down, and those that couldn't be dragged away were savaged by the TBA men. Only eight men managed to withdraw to safety, with three of them dying shortly afterwards from bleeding caused by the wounds.
It was not the only disaster of the ill-planned assault. Two miles east another group of Woodbridge troops were continuing to advance through clan-held territory, but slightly slower than otherwise given the doubts that were spreading about their local allies. These doubts led to a disaster early that afternoon when a platoon came to the outskirts of the small village of Troston. A clansman told the lieutenant in charge of the platoon that the village contained somewhere around 100 members of the TBA. The lieutenant was doubtful and on further questioning it was discovered that the clansman was not in fact local. The officer sent an advance party of 5 men into the village to try to contact the local civilian population. Some 20 minutes he received a radio message from the corporal in charge of the party that there were no TBA soldiers in the village and the the headman had agreed to meet in the village centre. The rest of the platoon moved into the village and gathered on the village green where they found themselves surrounded by the aforementioned members of the TBA. The Woodbridge troops immediately tried to shoot their way out of the situation. They were unsuccessful and suffered 10 fatalities and an equal number of serious injuries. The lieutenant in charge then ordered what remained of his platoon to lay down their arms and surrender. The leader of the TBA then told the surviving Woodbridge troops that they would be taken to Bury St Edmunds as prisoners of war. The Woodbridge high command only learned of these events when another platoon was sent to Troston to investigate the disappearance of the first and they talked to some civilians.
These disasters soon convinced Woodbridge commanders to pull back the assault and ensure that such dangerous and ill-advised attacks would be prevented in future. The commander who had ordered the attack was quickly pulled in and examined as to how he could let such a disaster take place; this commander has been returned to Woodbridge, pending an investigation into his command skills, and has been replaced on the frontline.
The retreat of the raid brought an air of melancholy onto Woodbridge troops, and even greater animosity towards the clans that inhabited their control zone. They had failed in their aim to stop the movement of enemy troops and were acting on the advice of locals who could not be trusted to tell the truth. Scattered reports came in of assaults on clan members in the area by Woodbridge troops in 'frustration', but so far Woodbridge command has not seemed particularly proactive about dealing with this. They are more concerned with the growing issue of Bury St Edmunds - and, crucially, the hostage situation that has just developed. High Command has tried to keep quiet over the issue, though they have reported that if Woodbridge troops are being held in the town "It is unlikely that any form of artillery or aerial bombardment will take place until the safety of [Woodbridge] troops are guaranteed". Analysts note that this does not rule out a bombardment before the captured men are extracted or confirmed to have been killed, and have noted that this could be the beginning of a grimmer, more pragmatic and utilitarian view of dealing with the TBA.
Wednesday, June 9th
After the disasters of the previous day the commanders of the Woodbridge troops decided that they would more a lot more slowly and be even more cautious. It was thought that the member of the TBA that were still fighting were the real hardcore of the organisation. The Woodbridge forces now divided into two groups: half concentrated on helping to complete the encirlement of Bury St Edmunds while the other started to move into Forest Heath. They safely captured the villages of Barnham and Elveden before deciding to move down towards the former USAF base at Mildenhall using the old A11 road.
However, the day's main combat was in Newmarket. The town was acknowledged as a watershed for the invasion; it was the second of the 'big three' towns in the region. If Essex captured the town it would mean that the invasion was nearly complete, with the only milestones remaining the seizure of Bury St Edmunds and Forest Heath. If Essex failed then it would massively bolster enemy morale and prolong the invasion by weeks, and permanently dent the country's military strength. But the troops were confident; they had survived, and learned from, the debacle of Haverhill, and had all the firepower they needed to take the town quickly and easily. Allegedly a letter was read to the infantry, written by High Minister Lee Evans himself, involving the importance of the battle, the strength of the men, and finishing with "Essex has already taken one town, and Woodbridge is still afraid of stepping foot inside another. Let's show them how it's done.".
The battle began at 05:30 as artillery pieces unleashed a massive barrage on the trench systems surrounding the town, blasting the area full of craters. With HH-35s providing fire support overhead Essex troops rushed forward into the craters created in the barrage, wiping out surviving enemy troops in the process. At 05:33 troops then continued into the town, following behind five of Woodbridge's tanks, each of which was escorted by a pair of armoured cars. As per the battle plan troops had arrived on the town's outskirts within minutes, and immediately set about establishing a network of command posts. Whilst the enemy rushed to readiness artillery units were up to nearby Long and Side Hills to facilitate their attack.
At 05:40 the enemy's resistance began in earnest, rushing from the north to Essex's frontline. Initially they came in piecemeal, and were easily taken down by forward units with minimal casualties. Soon, though, they began to appear in larger groups. When tanks and machine guns were available these groups were easily defeated and forced to scatter, but the winding town roads meant that many infantry groups were trapped and annihilated. Even the three helicopters overhead could offer only token resistance, as their job was as much to support the assault as it was to guard its flanks and ensure it was not surrounded.
By 05:50 it was clear that the enemy was fully prepared. Locals would form up in groups numbering roughly a dozen and then use their intimate knowledge of the local area to sneak around advancing troops, attacking them and then melting away. As troops approached the high street they found the enemy had created a network of barricades and gathering areas where troops would fall easy prey to sharpshooters in buildings. This time, however, Essex troops knew not to fall to the trick of flushing out each building hand-to-hand - they retreated to safe zones and waited for tank support. Woodbridge's Leopard I tanks made short work of the enemy's forts, using their cannons to blast them away and clearing a route for troops to advance. Troops soon found themselves occupying the southern side of High Street - and in a bitter battle with enemy troops occupying the northern side. Bullets and arrows riddled the street as troops on either side tried to empty occupied buildings.
However, the enemy was not content to let themselves be besieged. At 06:16 at least two hundred of Newmarket's population, armed with all sorts of improvised weaponry, spilled out onto High Street. Many were cut down by the guns of Essex's troops and armoured cars in the area, but many more survived and swamped Essex's buildings, pushing inside and slaughtering the men at close range. Nailbombs were employed, inflicting massive casualties. Suddenly the course of the battle was reversed: with access to Essex's weaponry, armour, and even three of its armoured cars, the defenders were able to pose serious resistance.
Tense fighting occupied the southern half of the town for the next hour, inflicting huge casualties to both sides. In desperation commanders begged artillery to be called down in their positions, well aware that the ammunition could hit their own men as much as it might hit the enemy. Intermittent bombardments managed to stem the tide of the enemy's advance but the cost to Essex was sickening too, as the buildings they were occupying were blasted apart when they were mistaken for the enemy's. Casualty levels were rising dangerously.
But the methods worked, and soon the enemy was slowly being pushed back. One of the TBA's captured armoured cars was dispatched by a mis-aimed nailbomb that slaughtered the crew, and was able to be recaptured by Essex troops and used for a brief while before it was hit by a Molotov cocktail. The other two cars remained in action, but the enemy pulled them back before they could be overrun by advancing troops. At 07:23 Essex troops again held their positions along High Street, but this time rather than tempt fate they immediately pressed forward. The southern side was immediately fortified, and a string of command posts and medical centres running along it. With reinforcements recalled from along the line, troops could now launch their attacks up Fordham Road, in an attempt to separate the enemy's remaining forces and push him into a salient. With heavy artillery support and a pair of tanks leading the charge Essex troops managed to reach a pair of fields south of the retail park, where they encountered heavy enemy resistance in the form of around a hundred TBA warriors equipped with shotguns, nailbombs and swords at 07:43. Though several of the attackers were killed the majority closed to short range and ravaged the troops, only being beaten back when an HH-53 swept overhead and unleashed a hail of machine gun fire killing most of the attackers. The enemy pulled back, but worryingly, they managed to loose off a crossbow bolt that killed the door gunner of the helicopter, alerting troops to the fact that even in the air they weren't safe.
But after the enemy retreated the bastion at the head of Fordham Road remained safe, and soon Essex troops were forcing their way into the remaining area of Newmarket. Casualties were high as the enemy continued to use human wave attacks, shotguns, and nailbombs, but it was clear by 09:00 that the enemy was on the verge of total defeat. Troops rushing up Hamilton Road on the west side of the town reported that they found a large group of civilians with negligible guarding who surrendered almost immediately. A large movement from the north was soon realised to be a horde of civilians fleeing across the A14 and into the territory secured by Essex, who were hastily moved back into the secured parts of the town whilst troops fought of several groups of TBA warriors trying to stop the escape. The attacks were soon beaten back, and in the middle of Newmarket the battle was drawing to a close.
At 09:35 the attack was redoubled northwards, with Essex troops rushing into Newmarket's industrial estate and beyond. But the confidence of the troops proved miscalculated, as human wave attacks came in from the north, west and east on advancing troops. Artillery commanders were now wary of firing, having seen that there were actually civilians in the town which their mission demanded protecting, and so for several minutes delayed their fire. Over a hundred troops were killed in the process. Only when fire resumed did the enemy's assault falter, but even so they continued to fight boldly, attacking a pair of advancing tanks with Molotov cocktails. Though the tanks were not harmed, three of their escorting armoured cars were lost and, with them, a dozen infantrymen. The area was eventually secured after half an hour of fighting, but morale had been so heavily stunted troops were now afraid to cross the overgrown A14 and complete the assault to the north.Their inhibitions proved fortuitous. At 10:18 a helicopter scout reported sighting a huge number of enemy troops massing behind the embankment, waiting to pounce on Essex troops. Another HH-53 was called in and together they laid down a field of fire on the enemy troops, allowing the Essex soldiers to rush across the embankment. However, in the confusion the specifics of the order were lost - troops were only meant to cross where the helicopters were suppressing fire. Instead troops rushed across along the entire embankment, in many places straight into the waiting guns of TBA men. The ensuing massacre was vicious, with hundreds of men wounded in the barrage of arrows, shotguns, nailbombs and machine guns. Across over one km of old motorway the bloodbath took well over two hundred lives and three hundred wounded. But it was not a defeat. Fuelled by vengeance the troops in the right places surged across the opposite embankment and with tank and armoured car support systematically annihilated the survivors. Artillery was vectored in to Exning and Landwade, the suburb-villages north of their position, flattening the remaining resistance. Troops pushed forwards and, supported by intense firepower, surrounded the remaining TBA soldiers and demanding their surrender. With helicopters and armoured cars sweeping the countryside there was no escape for the remaining enemy troops and, finally, at 10:57 the Essex flag on an improvised flagpole (all other high points having been mostly destroyed) raised over the town.
But for all the hardship the men had endured - virtually an entire regiment written off, the town damaged practically beyond repair, the slaughter of all but about a fifth of its prior population, and two armoured cars in enemy hands still on the loose - it was only a Pyrrhic victory. The mission had effectively failed in its objective of seizing the town with as much of its population and infrastructure secure. The Army of Essex had lost nearly a quarter of its entire military capacity, and even though it could easily conscript reinforcements the psychological damage would be a lasting wound. But even as the day drew to a close after dozens of disorganised enemy counterattacks troops were beginning to see the bright side: they had prevailed despite insurmountable odds, and with two-thirds of the invasion effectively complete, the end of the war was visible on the horizon.
Thursday, June 10th
Following the intense combat in Newmarket the Essex assault stalled somewhat. Having lost almost an entire regiment and with incessant enemy counterattacks on the town the country's morale and fighting capacity was greatly damaged, even having won a victory. Two companies were rotated into Newmarket to defend it against the constant enemy assaults, and also to allow the battered troops there a brief respite as they were pulled back. Elsewhere, though, such luxuries could not be afforded, and the offensive continued unabated.
Woodbridge and Essex commanders agreed that all of their strength in the central and southern zones that day had to be put into closing off the enemy route into Bury St Edmunds while the Woodbridge troops in the north would continue their move into Forest Heath. The two battalions of Woodbridge troops in Forest made slow and steady progress throughout the day taking control of a succesion of small villages before reaching the western border of Forest Heath at around 21:00. A message was then passed on to Woodbridge High Command who then passed back a message that the next day one of the battalions would move north mopping up the rest of Forest Heath and the other would move south in order to assist with the encirclement of Bury St Edmunds.
The day was mostly without incident, with casualty rates surprisingly low (only eighty for Essex and sixty for Woodbridge). By the time the day had drawn to a close the TBA's highway to Bury St Edmunds had been greatly narrowed to just five miles in width, and roving helicopter patrols were able to intercept large numbers of troops trying to move throughout the area. Overnight the EAS Cavalier, fitted with a number of improvised searchlights, was dispatched to the area. Hovering two hundred metres above ground level and on a regularly repeating search pattern the airship was tasked with scanning for TBA units attempting to move under the cover of darkness and vector in artillery strikes. Twenty three intercepts of this sort were made between 22:00-05:00.
Friday, June 11th
As dawn broke a critical battle began which would cement the fate of the war. As the sun rose Essex and Woodbridge troops, en masse, rushed north and southwards respectively, in a single-minded attempt to completely close off the Bury St Edmunds highway. Hoping to catch TBA troops by surprise quartets of armoured cars surged ahead of the infantry front, tasked with securing control of the main roads and lanes that composed the highway and forcing the surrender of any habitations in the region, an act which would cripple the mobility of enemy troops and stall a counterattack. Behind the dozen armoured car units were some sixteen hundred men, the majority of Woodbridge origin, tasked to sweep the woodland in the area for hidden enemy paths and terminate with extreme force any units present. Eyebrows were raised, as the tactic of 'flood them with troops' had been tried in the same area just three days before with disastrous results. This time, however, commanders had advised their troops on what to expect and how to deal with the enemy situation: shoot on sight. Coupled with the much greater number of troops present and the roving armoured car units the offensive was a veritable success. A handful of TBA troops were able to avoid both the armoured cars and the initial troop sweep, going on to launch several deadly raids on unwary fire teams, but by 11:00 they had all been located and shot. In a matter of hours the last of the enemy on the highway, some seventy men, had been encapsulated in the village of Cavenham, four km west-north-west of Bury St Edmunds. Though commanders at the rear were anxious to capture the position and force the enemy to surrender experience of troops suggested that the enemy was well-entrenched and equipped with weapons that would make a close assault needlessly bloody. Forward commanders were able to convince their superiors to vector in an artillery strike on the village at 12:17, and after its conclusion at 12:24 troops in the area were able to confirm total enemy casualties. The road to Bury St Edmunds, finally, was closed.
The conflict itself was far from over, though. Advances were still being made in Forest Heath, and even in spite of their worsening state the enemy continued to be stubborn. Theorised to be supplied from Soham and Ely, an army of around three hundred TBA troops launched a surprise attack on a Woodbridge company at Eriswell, a town abandoned due to its proximity to the ruins of RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall. The company, which had just lost ten men after an unexpected nailbomb strike, was resting in the village to recuperate, intending to resume its assault at 13:00. At 12:47 lookouts reported seeing several gangs of TBA troops converging from the north and west, numbering at most fifty. The major of the unit was confident that the company could still defeat the attackers, even in its weakened state of only eighty men. But by the time troops had moved to their defensive positions, they were already under attack.
At 12:49 over a hundred TBA troops emerged from the woods around the abandoned village and, supported by a number of archers, rapidly crossed the meadows surrounding Eriswell. Though very few casualties were inflicted Woodbridge troops were still forced to keep their heads down and were incapable of fully manning their defensive stations. Three machine guns opened fire but were quickly swarmed and defeated, with one being destroyed by a nailbomb. Troops were forced to extremely close-range fighting where the shotguns of the TBA proved deadly, injuring and killing dozens of Woodbridge men. Again the TBA showed their prowess at town fighting, with improvised explosives severely damaging troops. At 13:01 the surviving thirty troops, surrounded and heavily wounded, surrendered. The enemy bound and gagged them, and forced them to march to Ely - though not before brutally assaulting and defiling the bodies of five of the soldiers in the company, including raping two of its women - three of whom were black, and two who were Hispanic. Only when another company arrived in the area at 14:44 was the terrible news relayed by a teenage boy who had been forced into the TBA army and deserted during the battle.
Some recompense was made that evening, when an Essex unit supported by two tanks swept through Isleham and managed to force the surrender of some two hundred troops and civilians, but the psychological blow was of the same calibre as the earlier kidnapping of Woodbridge men who had been taken to Bury St Edmunds. Troops settling down for the night remained somewhat more wary of the sounds in the distance, fearing further enemy assaults. But they had little to worry about; the Essex and Woodbridge frontlines were no more than a short walk away in most places, and Bury St Edmunds was finally surrounded.
Saturday, June 12th
The Woodbridge troops were getting more and more concerned on two different fronts: the fate of the soldiers taken prisoner by the TBA, and what the TBA would do with the Woodbridge armoured cars, radio and uniforms they now had in their possession. Rumours were floating about of TBA units disguised as Woodbridge troops infiltrating the front line and carrying various acts of sabotage. Though there were no confirmed reports over the issue troops on the front line began to grow increasingly distrustful of those behind them.
However, this did not stop troops from giving all they could. Between 06:00 and 12:00 troops pushed forward, closing the enemy's elongated salient, and finally managing to completely close it off by noon. Essex and Woodbridge troops were overjoyed to have finally closed off the last part of the line and were even more overjoyed to learn that they had less than a few sq mi of land to cover before they had completely covered the remainder of Forest Heath. With morale taking a much-needed increase the troops pushed towards their destination and by 13:30 all forward commanders had reported that they were at designated their designated positions.
The war, for all intents and purposes, was over.
But in name it still continued. Bury St Edmunds still remained stalwart against the Woodbridge siege, and helicopter reconnaissance confirmed that the enemy was still fortifying and consolidating its position. Not that the spirit of resistance in the town seemed to be uniform; at 21:09 that night machine gun fire was heard on the south side of the town, and a reconnaissance mission dispatched later that night to find the source of the shooting found around thirty bodies of civilians that evidently had attempted to escape. When news of this reached the High Command it soon dawned on them that they might not have to do all the work themselves, and proposed a leaflet campaign. An Essex printing company was commissioned to create and print twenty thousand leaflets to be dropped from the EAS Cavalier as soon as possible.
With the war by some counts over it became clear that there were flaws in the original plan. The newly acquired territories had no defensible borders, and the countries could hardly afford to invest in a number of forts and wire fences whilst it was rebuilding the conquered territories. Furthermore a number of reasonably large towns, such as Ely and Soham, existed nearby, and would doubtless form major centres of TBA resistance in the years to come unless captured soon. Strategists went back to the drawing board and poured over all the data they had available, soon noticing the presence of the River Great Ouse. The waterway was fairly long and between it and the borders of Essex and Woodbridge were several key towns, including the western side of Cambridge. Most importantly, however, it flowed directly to King's Lynn in East Britain, and if it could be captured it would provide a valuable transportation route. Though Ely lay beyond its shore a pair of canals dug a small distance beyond encompassed the city, meaning even that could be captured too. High Minister Lee Evans and Prime Minister John Robson were soon in contact with the King and Chancellor of East Britain, and were able to confirm that the other nation would pledge its troops to an extension of the campaign. Though poorly equipped the Royal Guardsmen were known for their prowess in hand-to-hand combat, a pivotal matter when it came to assaulting TBA-held towns, and would have intimate knowledge of the Isle of Eels, where Ely lay. It was therefore decided, around midnight, that the two countries would announce that they were now officially at peace with the True British Army - though in full knowledge that they would resume their assault within the week.
Sunday, June 13th - Friday, June 18th
The nominal end to the war still meant conflict. Over the Sunday helicopters patrolling the northern flanks discovered several groups of TBA troops attempting to flee into Norfolk with local assistance. Though none of the discovered groups survived the attempts it still showed that there was, to some extent, resistance within the area. This was made extremely clear when the following Monday a group of interned enemy troops managed to break free and arm themselves, proceeding to go on a destructive rampage in an Essex staging ground. Fortunately the insurgents were killed before casualties grew too high, but the prisoners still managed to kill some thirty troops and civilians, twice their own number.
Though no True British Army troops attempted counterattacks, the issue of Bury St Edmunds still remained. Several more escape attempts were suspected to have taken place, and troops on the town's western side saw hanged bodies on the Tuesday morning. On Wednesday a brief sniper battle erupted on the town's northeastern side, which was eventually brought to a conclusion when an artillery strike was called for, quickly silencing local opposition. The locals remained resilient, however, and every morning troops would awake to find that the enemy had further expanded his defensive network. The entire town was slowly being converted into a fortress, and as time passed it became clear that a direct attack would be suicide. Troops positioned at Bury St Edmunds were clearly there for the long run. A leaflet drop did occur on the Thursday, and disturbingly unusually high levels of gunfire were heard from the town that night. Essex and Woodbridge troops in the area were often concerned whether they were doing the right thing by starving the enemy out - especially since several Woodbridge troops were being held prisoner.
Far behind the front lines the political scene was intense. Troops were being marshalled and plans drawn up for the next stage of the invasion, revealed only as late as Friday morning to prevent news spreading to the enemy. The war was becoming less of an issue of Essex and Woodbridge expanding and more of one of defending the entire Organisation of British Nations. Three separate battle plans were drawn up, each to be enacted primarily by a single member of the coalition.
- Essex would attack on the southernmost axis into South (and parts of East) Cambridgeshire, seizing the majority of the territory inside the Rivers Great Ouse and Cam, which would include the eastern portion of the remnants of Cambridge. This would secure the land border for the expansion, and provide Essex with an area for future expansions along more of the Great Ouse and establish a region of control from Stevenage northwards.
- Woodbridge would launch a northwards assault, driving up the eastern side of the Great River Ouse, to cut off the numerically inferior forces of the True British Army in Norfolk and to establish another land border. It would be gaining the parts of the districts of Thetford and Hunstanton. This would allow for a direct land route to East Britain and provide the country with the ability to sweep eastwards into the rest of Norfolk.
- East Britain would push southwards into the Isle of Eels in East Cambridgeshire. Their assault would be focused in the area between the Great Ouse and a pair of canals that cut through the countryside. This would culminate in an assault on Ely, thereby creating a bridge across the Great Ouse and establishing for the first time reliable travel on foot between the nations. From this East British Royal Guardsmen, adept at hand-to-hand combat, could supplement Essex and Woodbridge troops in pivotal hand-to-hand combat.
The news was revealed to East British troops on Thursday to allow them to move to a war footing and on the next day to Essex and Woodbridge troops, in the interests of security. Though reluctant to continue a hard-fought war the troops were reinforced by the principle it would guarantee the safety of the territories they had worked so hard to capture. Most troops got to sleep early on the night of the 18th to ensure they would be more capable for their pre-dawn offensive. Few could, though, fearing even more bloodshed and a stronger determination from an enemy which had not only been defeated, but now double-crossed.