The Second Battle of Dorking
By Chris Nuttall
Well, Jane, as you would say, I guess we all deserved it.
I don’t know, of course, what happened to you, or to the kids. I don’t know if some of the flashes we saw in the sky years ago were nukes, or if something else was happening, perhaps to change the world again. I frankly don’t know if the Russians will ever let you get this letter, or if the talk of reaching out a hand to shattered Europe – not that they mention that it was them who did the shattering – is anything, but an attempt to get more work out of us. There were over ten thousand soldiers captured in the final days of the war, and I, for my sins, was one of them. I miss you, Jane; wherever you are, I hope that you are happy.
Siberia, the Russians here tell us, used to have nothing better to do than counting trees. Now, we work for the greater glory of the Russian Empire, working until we die one after the other. Some of the lads killed themselves when they realised, finally, that there was no hope of ever returning to a normal life. There are no women here, Jane, no children; none of us have seen a woman for years. We sleep in barracks that almost make Aldershot look cosy, we work all day cutting trees, or mining, or in a handful of cases building roads, and then we are locked up again.
Looking around, my love, I can see prisoners from everywhere. There are Germans, Poles, French, Spaniards…and British. God alone knows if you will get this letter, my love, but if you do, tell Private Humphrey’s parents that he misses them too, and Old Sam misses his boyfriend. They tell us tales of what happened years ago, during the war; the Spanish were captured during the defence of Madrid, long after I was captured. There were a handful of Frenchmen who were tortured to death in front of us; from what little we were able to determine, they were guilty of nothing more than being assigned to guard a French tactical nuclear stockpile. Were any nukes used, Jane? There seems no way for us ever to find out.
In the evenings, there is little to do, but talk. Some of the men are willing to become intimate with the other sex; they spend their time taking what comfort they can from each other. We keep it secret from the guards; we know nothing about what happened to the captured female soldiers, but we don’t think that it was pleasant. The Russians have a dreadful reputation, Jane; the tales we were told by a policeman from Ger,amu are terrifying. Do you remember our final telephone call? The Russians might have taken you soon afterwards, taken every woman they could get their hands on. All we can do is…worry.
And we talk about how it all happened.
Do you remember how we met? I was a soldier in training, then, just before the ill-fated deployment to the Sudan. You were a young woman with stars in your eyes and the sheer determination to change the world. We dated at night and you marched in protest against us warmongers in the daylight, our relationship a secret at first from our families and friends. I remember how we pledged our love one night, before we went to Sudan, before all hell broke loose. Our politicians had sent us to hell.
We knew, right from the start, that the Americans were refusing to get involved. "Let the fucking Europeans sort out the whole goddamned mess," one senator said, and perhaps he was right. People like you, Jane, had made it impossible for the Americans to get the global support they needed…you and the Russians. As the position in the Middle East and Africa disintegrated, we never knew, until later, that the Russians were growing in strength. We had no one to blame, but ourselves.
The deployment was doomed from the start, Jane; did you know that? God knew, we tried, and tried, but the politicians forced us to follow their conceptions, rather than reality. They insisted that we provide safety, and then refused us the permission we needed to defend either ourselves or the natives. We created refugee camps that we had to defend, but they didn’t allow us to defend them; I was on the clean-up group after a group of native bastards attacked and raped, looted and slaughtered their way through the thousands of innocents who had believed in us. They would never have the chance to know their mistake.
And then General Éclair shot himself.
Oh, it was easy, Jane, and it was, to blame the French. "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys," the Americans jeered. It had taken weeks of argument before the remaining European countries agreed to allow General Éclair to take command of EUROFOR SUDAN. "One man falls and they’re breaking out the White Flags!"
It wasn’t that simple. General Éclair did a good job under impossible conditions. My infantry unit had one set of ROE; the French units had another, the Germans had yet another…My God, Jane, there were even units where soldiers could not fire back under any circumstances, even if they were being fired upon themselves. The Netherlands lost a government in the aftermath of the Sudan Disaster; their population turned on them after their soldiers were either killed or threatened with being brought up on charges. We, too, lost a government; the disaster echoed all across Europe. If General Éclair hadn’t shot himself…
Try as I might, I can’t convince myself that it wouldn’t have made a difference to the final outcome.
A year or so passed while we licked our wounds…and then the Americans stumbled into a war with Iran. It was an accident, nothing like Iraq; neither side really wanted the war, but neither side dared back down as the Iranian Government was reaching for desperate measures to keep its hold on power. As chaos spread into Iraq and Saudi, the Americans asked for our help. We said no.
I suppose that that was inevitable. Iraq had certainly not benefited us in any real way. The Sudan Disaster had already brought down one government and the new Prime Minister knew that there was no support for any deployment in the United Kingdom. It was bad enough that we were having a financial crisis and couldn’t keep up with equipment that we desperately needed to maintain the army. Protesters were out on the streets in force, the Scottish Parliament was resolving not to permit the use of Scottish bases…and then all hell broke lose.
Even today, I still think that what happened near the American base had been contrived by someone, perhaps even the Russians. They certainly seemed to be able to penetrate us at whatever levels they desired. The case seemed as clear-cut as any the police had ever had to handle; an American grunt had raped a British teenage girl. It was one of those disasters that seems so inevitable in hindsight, but no one made any preparation for when it came…and the political firestorm was terrifying. We blundered, the Americans blundered…and by the time the firestorm had ended, NATO was pretty much a dead letter and the American bases in Britain and Europe were closed. Later, of course, we found out that the Russians had funded the protest groups…but by then it was too late.
Jane, you were urging me to get out of the Army then, do you remember? Your father-in-law was offering me a position in his business; he might never have liked the squddie who had knocked up his daughter, but he was a decent man and I hope he’s still alive. Our daughter was only just starting to walk and I wanted to spend time with her, but…I’m not sure why I stayed. The Army was my life, but it was a life that was falling apart in the wake of Sudan and Iran and…
I like to think that we might have made it. The American declaration of placing their self-interests first scared a lot of politicians, but few of them dared say it openly. We trusted to the English Channel; the French and Germans and Poles made an attempt at creating a proper European Army, but the money was nowhere to be found. Some of the people in the camp, Jane, blame that on the Russians; their use of their new energy resources to bully the East Europeans was a sign of what was to come.
We knew so little about the new Russian Government. We didn’t realise – well, perhaps the Poles realised – that they were determined to avenge decades of condescension from the European Union. We told them, when their people were freezing and starving and suffering, that if they wanted help, they would have to have it on our terms…and then we were unable to help. Help Russia? We could barely help ourselves! The Russians drew on what little advantages they had and parlayed them into regenerating their industry, whatever the price. Oh, how the protesters protested at Russian weapons turning up all over the world, adding more and more spilled blood to local conflicts…and how little the governments were able to do about it. Radical Islam? Eco-warriors? We missed the real threat, Jane.
And when the Ukraine dissolved into civil war, the Russians were ready. We had long known that the Ukraine Government was not only unstable, but was treating the Russians in the country like shit. The Russians had a habit of marching soldiers to the border, just to remind the government of how vulnerable they were…but this time something else happened. The westerners wanted to oppose them, or so we gathered later; the easterners would have preferred to deal with Russia, rather than the European Union. Perhaps it would have been different had America remained in the game, but the Yanks had pulled out of Europe; they would not return. The civil war raged for nearly six months, sending hordes of refugees fleeing west…and then the Russians invaded. Resistance was minimal; the Russians had basing rights in Belarus and struck with savage force. The Ukrainian Army, what was left of it, was unable to stop the Russians as they flowed westwards, occupying the country and declaring a peace.
Oh, Jane, the panic in Poland was terrifying, but did Brussels care? Of course not; they had issues with the refugees and knew that more refugees would be unpopular. They ordered the Poles to refrain from doing anything that might make the system even more unstable, and the Poles, reluctantly, complied. They insisted, however, on mobilising their army…and demanded some reinforcement from the other European nations. The Russians, naturally, objected; they reminded the Poles, once again, of how dependent they were on Russian energy sources.
If only the other politicians in Europe had had the backbone of the Polish Prime Minister. He stood to his guns and insisted, threatening everything from trying to bring down the EU political balance to inviting the Americans back in. Would that he had, but instead the politicians approved a limited deployment to Poland. Only a limited deployment, Jane; we had no reserves and limited ROE. Oh, there had been a few lessons learnt from the unfortunate death of General Éclair; we could actually shoot if we were being fired at, but Jane…we didn’t have half the resources we were supposed to have. What had been planned as a ten division deployment was cut down sharply; in the end, not counting the Poles, there were two British infantry units, one French armoured unit, one German infantry unit and a handful of smaller units from across Europe. We had never worked together before, Jane; they expected us merely to secure the border and prevent refugees from fleeing west.
I’d been assigned to one of the smaller close-protection units, Jane; you used to joke about me becoming a bodyguard after I finally got sick of the army. It wasn’t quite that style of close-protection; I had been ordered to provide an escort for three British CADS – Close-Air Denial System – trucks, just to prevent someone from taking them out through a commando raid. A CADS looks like a small truck with a missile launcher on the top; it is capable of engaging any air targets that come within range of its radars, from an American stealth fighter to Russian assault helicopters. I’d made First Lieutenant by that time and had forty men under my semi-autonomous command; semi-autonomous in the sense that we were expected to set up somewhere in Poland and provide mobile radar and antiaircraft capability if it were required. I’d heard that the Russians had actually protested our deployment as a ‘provocation’ – they claimed that there was too great a chance that we would engage a civilian airliner or something like that.
We were based out of Rheindahlen Military Complex, North Rhine, Westphalia, Germany, but our main area of operations was Poland. The Poles wanted us somewhere under heavy guard, but the staff back in Brussels were adamantly opposed to any suggestion that the Poles were in command of the deployment. In hindsight, this may have saved our lives; we were out roaming the countryside and deploying from time to time rather than tied down in a Polish military base. Every few hours, we would move our units, camouflage them, and activate one of the main radars. There was never anything to worry about, Jane; the Polish Air Defence Network seemed capable enough to warn us of any threat…until the day a missile struck our radar and destroyed it.
I had ordered the crew to only use one radar at a time; a radar is always detectable at a far greater range than it can detect. I was awoken by the blast as the missile struck our radar, the billowing explosion setting trees and even some of our tents on fire. The guards on patrol, moments later, began taking fire from all around us; we were surrounded and under attack! There are – were – plenty of people who claimed that the British Army had lost its edge, but my lads performed splendidly, holding off the attackers until the attackers broke contact, leaving us with one surviving CADS vehicle and twenty men, counting the CADS crew. I tried to get in touch with higher authority, but the communications network was being jammed and a quick radar sweep – risking everything – revealed a massive Russian air armada heading west. If there was opposition, we never saw any of it that day, apart from us.
I learned, later, that the Russians had mounted attacks right across Europe, many of them commando or cruise missile attacks. They had fired upwards of four thousand missiles at Europe, striking military and government targets everywhere, utterly shattering the command and control networks that we had depended upon for orders. Worse, they had landed strike teams at airports all around Poland and Germany, and they were moving in reinforcements in heavy aircraft. The European Air Forces came in for particular attention; cruise missiles and terror strikes destroyed or disabled over half of their entire list of aircraft, while missiles and submarines destroyed many of the ships of the proud European nations. Governments had been broken in the first strike; we knew nothing of that at the time.
I was senior officer; it was my responsibility to keep my men alive. There was no choice, but to attempt to find higher authority, but where could I find it? We left the CADS active – its automated sensors would have a fair shot at a few Russian aircraft before it was destroyed – and headed west across Poland. Behind us, we could hear Russian guns as their forces stormed across the border; we later learned that they had launched over forty divisions into Poland and they had smashed the Polish Army and the European forces that had attempted to oppose them. When we finally reached a German command post, we learned that the Russians were behind us and we had to slip through their lines to make it into Germany, the only hope of forging a defensive line that might be able to stop them.
But no line was forged. We had commandeered a civilian lorry after realising that Russian aircraft were shooting up every military vehicle on the road. I won’t go into details of that nightmarish journey, even for twenty armed men; the Russians seemed to be everywhere in Poland at once, forcing refugees further west. Somewhere along the line, we hooked up with refugee German and French soldiers, trying to reach the base at Rheindahlen. We were sure that we would find help there. Instead, the base was in ruins and air raids were frequent.
The Russians had seized Poland and weren’t stopping; they came onwards, and onwards, into the power vacuum they had created through their attacks. The German Army had been hammered hard, hard enough to force it to withdraw, while the Russian insurgents in Germany, France and even Britain tore through the infrastructure. There were too many problems to deal with and not enough units left, we learned; what little command authority was left wasn’t enough to regroup the shattered army. Our German Kamrads headed to join a small German force that we encountered; we kept heading west. The only thought in our mind was to get back to Britain and somehow find help there. God alone knows how we made it, through all the confusion and panic; Germany was breaking down as a country. We reached the North Sea and borrowed a boat, making it over to Britain, only to discover that Britain had been hit hard as well.
The Russians had sent us thousands of Ukrainian refugees, some of whom had been Russian agents in disguise. They had torn entire chunks of our infrastructure apart, while Russian cruise missiles had hammered barracks and other facilities right across the country. We were lucky as we sailed into Newcastle; we were able to link up with what remained of the army, only to discover that the Russians had smashed through Germany and invaded France, while the French had been stabbed in the back by their immigrant population. As the Russians moved closer and closer to Britain, their air raids grew more and more powerful, until they were attacking us almost constantly. The remains of the once-proud RAF tried to hold them off, but there were too many Russian fighters battling them for control of the skies, while we desperately fought to get a defence ready.
I wish, now, that I had been able to call you, but the telephone systems were down. I wrote to you, but I never heard back and I honestly don’t know if you saw the letters or not. You must have seen the images of the loss of the Eagle, or the two smaller carriers; we knew then that the Russians wouldn’t be happy until they had come for Britain as well as Europe. Russian soldiers had fought their way through Paris to take the city from the insurgents who held it; in some places, they had even been welcomed by older Frenchmen and women who had been threatened by the insurgency. Refugees kept coming to Britain and all we could do was round them up; we already had too many Russians running around the country causing havoc. There were even places where criminals and our own ethnic minority population had taken control; they all had to be smashed, weakening us still further. Should it have surprised anyone when they were found with Russian arms?
I’ve heard a lot of terrible things muttered about Major General Lockhart. The truth was that he did his best, Jane; there were just too many problems and not enough authority. The PM was dead, his cabinet was dead, the First Minister was dead…God, the Russians had wiped out most of the government and the military command structure. Lockhart, for nearly three weeks, ruled the country as a military dictator…and it wasn’t enough to save us. We all knew what was coming…
My old unit was gone forever, Jane; too many of us had died. I ended up with a battlefield promotion to Captain and command of one of the new infantry units, comprised of soldiers from the army and territorial and reserve soldiers. We were a small force and weaker than we seemed on paper – did I mention that the government simply hadn’t invested in enough of the basics of war? Half the force was armed with the goddamned SA80 rifle, for fuck’s sake! Our air cover was a joke; we had only a handful of assault helicopters and hardly any means of rearming them once they had fired off their weapons. Oh, and in case you think that we didn’t have enough problems, we didn’t have the manpower we needed to guard every possible invasion site. We had started conscripting young men, but did we have the weapons to arm them?
What do you think?
I don’t know, Jane, if Lockhart asked the Americans for help. I don’t know what they said, surely a resurgent Russia that had overrun all of Europe was a serious threat to them, but all I know is that we got no help from them. Worse, the Falklands had been invaded again…and we could do nothing. Once we had lost control of the seas surrounding Britain, the end was inevitable; for the first time since 1940, Britain would be seriously threatened with invasion. It started one warm night…
Russian paratroopers landed at Dover; my unit moved to engage them and there was a savage fight. We held, Jane, don’t let anyone tell you differently, but we were running desperately short of men and material. The Russians had close air support and we…well, the best I can say is that our helicopter pilots performed their duties as well as they could. We were forced to fall back as the Russians outflanked us and panic spread through Britain. God alone knows how we did it, but we massed everything we had near Dorking, preparing for the final battle.
Oh, Jane, my heart breaks even now.
The Russians took their time and built up their forces using the captured harbours. We had nothing left to call upon, so we waited in the defence lines we had built in the bare month we had had and evacuated as many citizens as we could from the front lines. It was a tiny army, a pitiful army, torn by deserters and the crippling effects of low morale; no one had ever expected to fight a war on our own soil. When the Russians came, finally, we fought like mad bastards…
When I woke up, we had lost the battle. The Russians had hit my bunker with something and the impact had knocked me out. I was in a POW camp and the mere presence of the camp proved that we had lost the battle. Other POWs had their own stories to tell, from the death ride of the 1st Armoured to the last stand of the Black Watch, but all of us knew what it meant. A few days later, members of the London Division of Territorial soldiers and some Beefeaters from the Palace arrives, telling their own sad story of defeat. I am ashamed to say that we real soldiers jeered at them; had they come with us and fought at Dorking, who’s to say what the outcome would have been.
I can’t imagine what you must have gone though, my love. I know, from policemen and convicted criminals who were added to our little camp, that the Russians were brutal to all who resisted, but otherwise were generally unconcerned with the locals. I don’t even know – God help me – if you’re still alive! Britain had been breaking down before they even landed; what must you have gone through, just because you were the wife of a soldier? All I can do is end my sorry tale; there really isn’t much more to tell.
The Russians kept us in the camp for nearly two weeks, shooting a handful of people who tried to escape, but otherwise ignoring us. That changed at the end of the first fortnight; we were shackled, chained together, and marched out of the camp, heading towards Dover. We saw little of the town, Jane, but there were Russians everywhere; they marched us onto a tramp freighter and shipped us to Europe. There, we spent a week in Paris, clearing up some of the devastation from the fighting. The Eiffel Tower had been destroyed, Jane, and bodies were everywhere. You wanted me to take you there one day, didn’t you? We will no longer have Paris, Jane; the city was destroyed from within and then without.
The Russians had been getting the road and rail network back into action and we were transported east as fast as the trains could move, heading further and further into Russia, and further from you. At somewhere in the Urals, we were sorted into sections; senior officers went into a train and we never saw them again, female soldiers and policewomen were sifted out and sent elsewhere. Us poor soldiers were just loaded back onto trains and sent to the camp. Since then, Jane, we have been left here to work or starve as we choose.
I don’t know what’s happened to you; you may have married again, or you may have died somewhere in Britain. All I can do is pray; pray that you are alive, and that your daughter, my daughter, never forgets what happened to us all when the lights went out, one final time.
Captain Patrick O’Fallon, British Army, Somewhere in Siberia