A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: The Army of the Pembrokeshire Protectorate

As recounted in my short history of the beginnings of the Civil War in Pembrokeshire, the south-western peninsula of the county, centred on the towns of Pembroke and Pembroke Dock and with extensive military infrastructure, was the first non-Welsh Nationalist Pembrokeshire district to rebel against the King.  The forces of Prince Albert, the Lord Protector, were very quick to react to this rebellion and a detachment of the Albertine Western Blockade Squadron soon arrived to reinforce and reassure the rebels, closely followed by an Albertine Canadian Infantry Brigade Group and thus this rebel territory fell into the Albertine sphere of influence.

With the arrival of strong Albertine forces and supplies, the Albertine Pembrokeshire Division rapidly expanded into a force of two infantry brigades:

Forces of the Albertine Protectorate of Pembrokeshire

General Headquarters, Protectorate Forces (Pembrokeshire)
HQ at Defensible Barracks, Pembroke Dock

1st Pembrokeshire Protectorate Brigade – Brigadier Sir Andrew James DSO MC*
1st (Pembroke) Rifle Volunteers (Prince Albert’s Own) – Lt Col Sidney Jones MC
2nd (Pembroke Dock) Rifle Volunteers – Lt Col Sir Gareth Hogmanay Beamish OBE
3rd (Cosheston & Carew) Rifle Volunteers – Lt Col Adrian James CFM
Princess Elizabeth’s Own Highland Émigré Volunteers of Canada – Lt Col Alexander Goldie TD

2nd Pembrokeshire Protectorate Brigade – Brigadier, Sir James Ackland
4th (Castlemartin & Angle) Rifle Volunteers (Lord Cawdor’s Own Angle & Castlemartin Cyclists) – Lt Col, The Hon. Jason de Beauharnais Evans VC
5th (Pembroke Irish) Rifle Volunteers – Lt Col Robert Wright
6th (Pembroke Foreign Legion) Rifle Volunteers – Lt Col, Conte Diego Manuel Garcia d’Arretano
Queen Mary’s Own Rifle Volunteers of Canada – Lt Col Molson Labatt

GHQ (Pembrokeshire) Artillery – Colonel, Sir George McGeary CRA
405 Field Battery (Pembroke Yeomanry), The Pater Artillery Volunteers (4x QF 18pdr) – Major Ronald Watts
4 Field Battery, Canadian Artillery Volunteers (4x 18pdr) – Major Douglas Butt
185 (East Blockhouse) Coastal Battery, The Pater Artillery Volunteers (2x 9.2-inch & 2x 6-inch) – Major, The Hon. Vaughan Austin du Fresnoy
186 Anti-Tank/Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, The Pater Artillery Volunteers (2x QF 12pdr on improvised mounts & 12x Lewis AA Mounts) – Major Samuel Spiers

GHQ (Pembrokeshire) Troops
The ‘Cumby’ Battalion, Royal Marines – Lt Col Edward Owens RM MC ChLdH
‘A’ Squadron, Castlemartin Yeomanry – Major, Sir Terence Meyrick, Bart.
Freshwater West Australian Light Horse Squadron, Royal Australian (Protectorate) Air Force – Squadron Leader Alistair ‘Skip’ Broughton RA(P)AF DFC
The Pembroke Post Office Lancers – Major Terence Gwyther
The Pater Tank Corps – Major Mervyn Evans MC
1st Field Company, Royal Pater Engineers – Major Charles George Gordon

Royal (Protectorate) Air Force – Gp Capt Arthur Harris R(P)AF AFC
210 Squadron R(P)AF – 12x Short Singapore – Sqn Ldr Christopher Jones R(P)AF DFC CFM*
228 Squadron R(P)AF – 8x Supermarine Walrus – Sqn Ldr John Evans R(P)AF
R(P)AF Pembroke Dock Ground Defence Flight – Flt Lt Martin Griffiths R(P)AF

Notes

1. ‘D’ Company, 4th (Volunteer) Battalion, The Welch Regiment (Territorial Army) was based at Pembroke Drill Hall.  As the local Territorial Army infantry company, one platoon of ‘D’ Company had naturally been called out to assist the police in maintaining order at a large public meeting that was to take place at the Great War Memorial on Castle Hill, Pembroke.  However, the BUF also decided to impose their version of the ‘King’s Peace’ and a massacre was the result.

One of the first to fall was the Territorial platoon commander and his incensed men were quick to return fire on the BUF.  Civilians were armed from the Drill Hall’s armoury and the BUF were soon driven from the town. ‘D’ Company then moved quickly to secure the locality: The Defensible Barracks was seized in a bloodless coup as they were joined by ‘A’ Squadron of the Pembroke Yeomanry and the men of the local Coastal Artillery Regiment, Royal Marines Detachment and Royal Dockyards Police. Most of the Officers and Airmen of RAF Pembroke Dock also joined the coup, though the Loyalists made a stand at the depot of the 2nd KSLI in Llanion Barracks. Nevertheless, the loyalist positions at Llanion were quickly overrun and the rebels consolidated their position in the south-west of the county. Within a week, an Albertine brigade group landed to reinforce the rebels, who quickly declared for Prince Albert.

Despite the switch of allegiance, the men of ‘D’ Company are proud of their regiment and have retained the old title. Perhaps in a vain hope that the rest of The Welch will join them against the King? They continue to wear their old Service Dress uniform and insignia. The only variation on Dress Regulations is the cap-band, in Albertine Purple.

[Models are Great War Miniatures, painted by Al Broughton.]

2. 405 Field Battery, 102 (Pembroke & Cardigan Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery has been expanded and split into two parts since the mutiny: The most experienced horsemen in the battery, along with the most promising new volunteers, have been returned to their pre-1922 role as cavalry and designated as ‘A’ Squadron, The Castlemartin Yeomanry.  It was fortunate that throughout the 1920s and 30s, the Battery (always referred to as a ‘Squadron’ by the old hands) continued to parade on horseback and compete in cavalry skills such as tent-pegging.

3. The remainder of 405 Field Battery, plus some new volunteers, continue to operate as a Field Artillery Battery.  They are equipped with WW1-vintage 18pdrs, though they have recently been motorised with Morris CDSW 6-wheel tractors.  However, the guns retain their iron-shod wooden wheels, so the tractors cannot exceed 6mph when towing the guns.  This means that they travel no faster than a horse-team on a road, but are much more efficient at cross-country movement, having the power to pull the guns out of boggy ground with ease.  The Battery Staff are mounted on horseback, with a horse-drawn Battery HQ radio wagon and office caravan, though they also possess an Austin 11 fitted as a Light Recce Car with radio for Forward Observation work.

4. The Pater Artillery Volunteers, a 19th Century volunteer regiment disbanded in the 1880s, has been resurrected to take control of 405 Field Battery, 185 Coastal Battery & 186 Anti-Tank/Light Anti-Aircraft Battery.

5. 185 (East Blockhouse) & 186 (West Blockhouse) Coastal Batteries, situated on either side of the mouth of the Milford Haven Waterway and completely dominating sea access, both consisted of 2x 9.2-inch and 2x 6-Inch Guns, emplaced in open, half-moon concrete revetments, served by underground magazines.  However, both batteries are completely indefensible from the landward side and the decision was therefore taken to withdraw the personnel of 186 Coastal Battery across the Haven.  The magazines at West Blockhouse Battery magazines were then blown up along with the guns, in a colossal explosion that has left a series of massive craters scarring the flank of St. Anne’s Head.  The new AT/LAA Battery has been given the old 186 Battery designation and is manned by the former coastal gunners.

6. The newly-formed Anti-Tank Troop of 186 AT/LAA Battery has been formed around two ancient naval 12pdr guns that once formed part of the Chapel Bay Battery, but were moved a few years ago to create a Training Battery at East Blockhouse.  This type of gun had been used successfully on field carriages by the Royal Navy during the Boer War and its time has come once again.  There is ample ammunition for these weapons and the RAF and REME mechanics at Pembroke Dock have excelled themselves in building two new, split-trail gun-carriages for these high-velocity weapons.  Trial firings of these weapons against warship armour-plate has clearly demonstrated that they are more than capable of defeating even the most modern of tanks.

7. The Pater Tank Corps has been formed from six Carden-Loyd Carriers captured at Llanion Barracks, two redundant RAF Rolls Royce Armoured Cars and a Mk V ‘Male’ Tank that was previously used as a war memorial in Pembroke Dock’s Memorial Park.  Mr Mervyn Evans, a former SNCO of the Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch) and Royal Tank Corps has been maintaining the Memorial Tank all these years and despite 20 years of children climbing on it, has kept it in fighting condition.  As the most experienced tank-soldier in the Brigade, Mr Evans has been awarded an Emergency Commission with the rank of Major and has been appointed to command the new Pater Tank Corps.  The RAF and REME have provided mechanics to refurbish these vehicles and to keep them in action.

8. The two regular Albertine Canadian battalions landed after the declaration for Parliament and the Lord Protector.  They have been split between the two brigades, in order to provide each brigade with some regular backbone.  A third Canadian battalion, plus supporting arms, has been sent to shore up the Bishop of St David’s forces in the northeast corner of the county.  However, aside from the field artillery, much of the Canadian motor transport and heavy equipment is still somewhere in the North Atlantic.

9. The ‘Pembrokeshire Foreign Legion’ is formed from assorted foreign émigrés, seamen and adventurers who have volunteered for service.  Thus far only two companies have been formed, but every ship that makes it through the blockade brings with it adventurers, mercenaries and volunteers from the Empire and beyond.  The battalion is commanded by the Count of Arretano, who is a refugee from Spain, presently resident at Orielton House near Castlemartin and who was an officer in the Royal Spanish Army before he was forced to flee with his family when the Anarchists seized his estate in northern Spain.

10. One company, commanded by Major Louis-Philippe de Guédelon Jones, is formed from a community of French onion-sellers.  The French onion-sellers have resided in the town for decades and most are now about as French as roast beef.  Nevertheless, they persist in wearing the obligatory berets and stripy shirts and speaking in outrageous accents.  Their ability to balance gigantic loads of onions onto bicycles has military use and they have therefore been turned into a bicycle-carried Vickers MG Company.  The French are mortal enemies with the Breton onion-selling community of Haverfordwest (who have now declared for King Edward) and onion turf-wars were common before the Civil War.

11. The ‘Cumby’ Battalion of Royal Marines is formed from the original Pembroke Dock RM Detachment, expanded by the addition of what Royal Navy personnel are present in Pembroke Dock, plus local Royal Marine and Royal Navy Reservists, former members of the disbanded Royal Dockyard Police, volunteers from the Merchant Navy and some ex-Royal Marines.  The battalion is named for Captain William Pryce Cumby RN, a former Captain-Superintendent of the Pembroke Royal Dockyard and who, as First Lieutenant of HMS Bellerephon during the Battle of Trafalgar, took command of the ship when the Captain was killed.

12. 4 Field Battery of the Canadian Volunteer Artillery is fully motorised with 8cwt cars and 15cwt trucks and is equipped with modern 18pdrs, fitted with pneumatic tyres.  They are not therefore speed-restricted like those of 405 Field Battery.

13. The RAF order of battle is largely conjectural, as the bulk of the heavier flying boats were badly shot up by Red forces from across the river before the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Protectorate and the People’s Republic came into force.  Several flying boats were burned and/or sunk at their moorings and most of the rest were damaged. Life on the river also became pretty lethal for the small RAF tenders servicing the flying boats.  Thankfully the Reds didn’t have anything heavier than MGs, so didn’t manage to do any more damage – they were also discouraged once 405 Battery’s 18pdrs started firing back from the Defensible Barracks.  To be on the safe side in case the MoU breaks down, the surviving flying boats have been taxied into the shelter of the Pembroke River, out of sight of the Reds, though only the lighter Walruses can operate from there and the heavier Singapores still need to take off and land on the Haven proper.  The RAF ground-crew have therefore moved everything they can from RAF Pembroke Dock, south to Pennar, where they have established a temporary base.

14. The old ‘RNAS Pembroke’ airship station at Carew-Cheriton had recently been re-commissioned by the Air Ministry for use as an RAF airfield for conventional aircraft.  However, while land has been purchased from neighbouring farmers, the field is still not large enough for modern aircraft and nothing heavier than a Tiger Moth can yet operate from there.  It is also dangerously close to the front line for comfort.  Another site, at Angle, has also been bought by the Air Ministry and has been surveyed, though work has not yet begun to clear hedgerows and grade runways.  However, Angle could be an excellent alternative site to operate Walrus amphibians and would enable the operation of land-based aircraft.

15.  The Albertine Pembroke Post Office Lancers had their origins in the ‘Volunteer Craze’ of the late 19th Century, when mounted postmen volunteered to supply a whole troop of the Pembroke Yeomanry.  The volunteer fad died with the Great War, though much of the mail in Pembrokeshire continued to be delivered on horseback. A few of the old veterans decided to revive their old cavalry skills and before long, the posties were competing once again in ‘tent-pegging’ (i.e. an old British cavalry exercise – attempting to spear a wooden tent-peg at the full gallop while remaining mounted). This was embraced enthusiastically by the younger postmen and the Pembroke Post Office Tent-Pegging Display Team were soon a popular sight at carnivals and fairs around South Pembrokeshire. New ceremonial uniforms soon replaced the standard, relatively plain blue & red Post Office uniform.

With the sudden descent to war, the tent-pegging display team soon became the Pembroke Post Office Lancers, volunteering en masse to defend Pembroke (and the Albertine cause by default).  Their smart uniforms were also an extremely effective recruitment tool and the Lancers quickly found their ranks swollen to full Squadron strength.  Their uniforms retain the blue, red and brass Post Office theme, though with the addition of smart-as-carrots pith helmets which are festooned with spare elastic-bands in the finest traditions of the Post Office (you never know when they might come in handy for parcelling up loot or prisoners).

Aside from a few Great War veterans and a few former Yeomanry and Territorials in the ranks, the Lancers have little in the way of infantry skills, so they are retained as shock cavalry and reconnaissance troops.

The Post Office Lancers formed part of the Albertine contingent sent by sea from Pembroke Dock to reinforce the beleaguered Bishopric of St Davids, where they fitted in well with other cavalry contingents outfitted in Ruritanian uniforms. They fought well in their first engagement at Robleston Hall, charging fearlessly in the face of stiff enemy opposition and blunting the Royalist offensive there, pausing only to carry out the day’s 2nd Collection at Dudwells Sub-Post Office.  However, they suffered heavy casualties, as nobody likes a show-off; least of all BUF Vickers Machine Gun teams…

So despite their detractors and accusations of being a throwback to Queen Victoria, the ‘Parcel Force’ as they have become known, have proved their worth on the battlefield. They might be silly buggers, but they’re sill buggers with style, panache and bulging sacks.

[The models are sculpted by Paul Hicks for Empress Miniatures’ Anglo-Zulu Wars range, painted by Al Broughton.]

16. In 1936, the Royal Australian Air Force purchased a number of Saro London flying boats from Great Britain.  RAAF personnel were then sent to RAF Pembroke Dock, to train on the new aircraft, with the intention of forming a brand-new RAAF flying boat squadron at Pembroke Dock, before flying their new machines back to Australia. However, the war intervened and the aircraft were not even delivered to Pembroke Dock. The Australian aircrew, finding themselves marooned in the midst of a war on the far side of the globe and hearing the trumpet’s call… found a superb surfing beach at a place called Freshwater West and set up camp there, well away from the Poms and their stupid war.  However, the Main Street Massacre changed all that.

It came to pass that some of the Australian officers were relaxing in the King’s Arms on Pembroke Main Street, enjoying a few quiet pints and looking forward to a few loud ones.  Squadron Leader ‘Skip’ Broughton was just lifting a foaming pint of “Feelin’ Foul” to his lips (‘Felinfoel’ isn’t a name that comes easily to Englishmen, let alone Australians) when a volley of shots erupted in the street outside!  A bullet smashed the window, then smashed Skip’s pint before passing through his hand and lodging in the dark oak panelling of the public bar!  Squadron Leader Broughton stood, ashen-faced, dripping with blood and beer as the other Australians looked on in shock and horror. “Strewth, Skip!  The bastards shot your pint!”  Unaware of the screams and incessant gunfire outside the smashed window, the Australians stared dumbstruck at their stricken leader and his former pint.  Then, as one man, the enraged and dripping Australians charged out into the street.  Someone was going to pay!

Having joined forces with the people of Pembroke against the Blackshirts (and by association, the King), the Australians have nailed their colours firmly to the Albertine mast.  There are no aircraft to fly, so the Australians have turned their hand to horsemanship (already a well-honed skill among many of them).  The Australian airmen’s natural dash and initiative has made them excellent light cavalrymen and the Freshwater West Australian Light Horse Squadron has been rapidly incorporated into the Pembrokeshire Protectorate forces.  Some wags insist on referring to them as ‘Air Cavalry’ – a clearly ridiculous name that will surely never catch on…

 

The FWALH’s old RAAF uniforms have now been almost completely replaced with khaki and brown leather cavalry equipment drawn from local Yeomanry stores, as well as with dashing Australian Light Horse-style hats run up with a local milliner and decorated with a band of RAAF blue serge and ‘Kangaroo Feathers’ in Albertine purple.

The squadron’s guidon is emblazoned with the Prince of Wales’ Feathers (commemorating Wales, not the Prince!), a boomerang and the motto ‘Ne Solliciti’ (‘Worry Not’).

[Models are Battle Honours (I think), painted by Al Broughton.  The guidon was painted by me.]

This entry was posted in 28mm Figures, Campaigns, Painted Units, VBCW - A Very British Civil War, VBCW Albertine. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: The Army of the Pembrokeshire Protectorate

  1. Doug says:

    Very stylish and appropriate – they certainly cut more of a dash than the Reds..

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Indeed! Which reminds me… I must get around to painting the Thornton Cossacks and the Milford Sailor Soviet…

  2. Rhys Lewis-Jones says:

    Endlessly entertaining as always. Will you be taking your collection to Carmarthen’s historics club anytime over the summer?

    All the best,
    Rhys

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Rhys!

      Yes, that’s the plan, though my plans have been relentlessly scuppered over the last couple of months…

      • Rhys Lewis-Jones says:

        Fantastic stuff, I would really enjoy a game at some point if at all possible. I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I’m home up in Hermon near Crymych, degree done and dusted! I’ll have to do a few Post Office Lancers, I’ve got the Empress German Revolution range which might be passable for some units, especially the sailors. I’ll HAVE to do the Welsh nationalist forces.

        All the best

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Nice! Yes, those German Revolution figures do look good (once again by Paul Hicks, who sculpted 90% of my stuff) – especially the figure of a bloke in lederhosen with a dachshund… 😀 I was thinking of getting them for the Freikorps von Lutzen – German relatives and supporters of the Baron de Loutson.

          I’ll definitely be in club at some point! The trouble is that Thursday nights are absolutely the worst night of the week for me, because if I’m not working I’ll have just come off shift and just want a night at home. The monthly Saturdays were good for me, but the last two have been organised when I was working. 🙁

          • Rhys Lewis-Jones says:

            Great stuff, I really like the sound of the Freikorps von Lutzen. I have four unpainted minis of suitable German types, they might be the ones you’ve mentioned. I’ve also got my Freikorps collection well on the way so hopefully I could include these in a VBCW game. So far they include some packs from the Empress range and then the Great War range of late-war Infantry (perhaps these will look the part after painting Freikorps armbands etc). We’ll have to work something out over the summer, I’d invite you to my place but I don’t have a place of my own just yet, graduating this summer now. All the best

Leave a Reply to jemima_fawr Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.