A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire 1938: Welsh Nationalist Factions in Pembrokeshire

Regular readers of this idiocy will probably remember that I’ve created a Welsh Nationalist faction for the ‘Very British Civil War’ in Pembrokeshire; namely the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes, which has its stronghold in the chapel-proud hinterland bocage country of North Pembrokeshire.  My mate Martin has also created the Free Wales Army, centred on the port of Fishguard, featuring their crack regiment, The ‘Fish Guards’.

However, the lads at the Carmarthen Old Guard are becoming increasingly interested in building their own VBCW armies, so here are my notes on the other Welsh Nationalist factions operating in and around Pembrokeshire.  However, the golden rule is that it’s YOUR VBCW, so don’t be constrained by my ideas!  He who paints the army writes the history… 😉 I hope this nonsense serves as the germ for your own imagination:

The Free Wales Army (Pembrokeshire)

Y Fyddin Rhyddud Cymru (Sir Benfro)

The most powerful Welsh Nationalist faction in West Wales is the Free Wales Army (FWA)’s Pembrokeshire Division, centred on the port of Fishguard.  Prior to the civil war, Fishguard was something of a hotbed of Welsh Nationalist academia, mainly drawing on the non-conformist and pacifist Welsh chapel tradition.  However, with the departure of most of the pacifist Nationalists to the new Senedd (Parliament) at Machynlleth, the FWA has rapidly filled the vacuum, aided by public revulsion at Royalist/BUF methods in the Landsker.  The FWA therefore emerged as a pro-war, militaristic backlash against the failed policies of the traditional, pacifist Welsh Nationalist intelligentsia.  Some observers ascribe fascistic elements to the FWA movement; they certainly love their bottle-green uniforms, public rallies and oaths to the cause and there are echoes of Italian and German fascism in the title of Yr Arweinydd (‘The Leader’) for their senior member.  The current Arweinydd is a shadowy figure only known as Martin Bach (‘Small Martin’).

The FWA in Fishguard are aligned with FWA enclaves in other parts of Wales, as well as other Welsh Nationalist groupings, though as discussed above, they profoundly disagree with the rump of the ‘old’ Welsh Nationalist leadership, such as Plaid Cymru, over military policy.  They do maintain a permanent presence at the Machynlleth Senedd, albeit in a non-voting capacity.  The FWA’s main source of power in Fishguard comes from its superb deep-water harbour and the associated trade with Ireland, as well as with various other anti-government factions around Britain, as well as foreign powers.  Newly-installed coastal artillery (purchased from Argentina) and a fledgling Free Wales Navy keeps the harbour relatively safe from interference.

Regular military elements of the FWA generally wear bottle-green uniforms, with weapons and equipment from a variety of British and international sources.  Uniforms are typically emblazoned with their stylised ‘White Eagle’ symbol (looking something like an asterisk with downward-turning ‘arms’).  Those without uniforms typically wear a green armband with the eagle symbol in white.  Flags again are bottle-green with the white eagle in its stylised form or sometimes in a more realistic form, typically inscribed with the motto ‘FE GODWN NI ETO’ (‘We will rise again’).  The naval ensign is similar but in sea-grey.

The Republic of Cantref Cemaes

Y Gweriniaeth o Cantref Cemaes

The main article for the Army of the Republic of Cantref Cemaes can be found here (link).

The Welsh Republican Army

Y Fyddin Gymraeg Gweriniaethol

North of the River Teifi is the Welsh Republic, which forms the rump of Welsh Nationalist power, governed chiefly by the pre-war Plaid Cymru (‘Party of Wales’).  The new realities of national civil war forced the largely pacifist Plaid Cymru to reconsider its previous opposition to military action and it was with great reluctance that a Welsh Republican Army was formed.  Despite their initial reluctance, the Welsh Republic has done well, successfully carving out a large, economically-sustainable and defensible chunk of territory, with good access to overseas trade and excellent contacts among sympathetic foreign powers.

After some debate, the capital of the new Republic was established at Machynlleth, site of Prince of Wales Owain Glyndŵr’s short-lived Senedd (‘Parliament’). A new Senedd has been created and despite the war, the Republic has even managed to hold local elections, to provide the Senedd with Representatives.  However, not all Welsh Nationalist territories are willing to suborn themselves to the Republic, though many of these (such as the Republic of Cantref Cemaes and the Kingdom of Dyfed) do send non-voting Representatives to the Senedd, which to its credit, allows these dissenting voices to be heard.

Thanks to foreign military aid, the Welsh Republican Army has grown to become a considerable force.  However, the lack of strong, central leadership from the Senedd, allied to a lack of sufficient modern weaponry, has greatly stymied its offensive capability.  It is this perceived weakness that has only encouraged the formation of independent, more offensive-minded factions such as the FWA and the Kingdom of Dyfed.

Thanks to the variety of foreign sources, the Welsh Republican Army has a wide variety of uniforms and equipment.  As with many Welsh Nationalist factions, bottle-green is a popular jacket colour, though khaki uniforms from a variety of sources are also widespread, as are French-sourced ‘Horizon Blue’ uniforms of Great War vintage.  Armbands usually match the Welsh Republic’s colours of green, red & white, though plainer green & red, deleting the white, have also been seen.

The flag of the Welsh Republic is a tricolour, with bright green at the hoist, then red, then white at the fly.  However, flags loosely based on the heraldic banner of Henry Tudor are also popular, being a white-over-green flag with red dragon passant. However, some units prefer a slightly more aggressive dragon rampant badge and others show the dragon on a plain green ground.

Knights of the Grey Mare

Marchogion y Mari Lwyd

The ‘Knights of the Grey Mare’ are a shadowy and terrifying guerrilla group operating in the Gwaun Valley, which is a deep, narrow and thickly-wooded gorge, nestling in the mountains east of Fishguard.  They resist ALL attempts to move into the Gwaun with ruthless and terrifying acts, backed up by wild rumours of druidic practices and the Dark Arts.  They are never seen and never heard, though they most definitely exist; patrols and sentries will simply disappear, only to reappear at dawn, minus everything below the neck.

The Cwm Gwaun is therefore best avoided and even the FWA give them a wide berth.

The Army of the Kingdom of Dyfed

Y Fyddin o Gwledydd Dyfed

East of Pembrokeshire is the nominally Welsh Nationalist ‘Kingdom of Dyfed’.  When war was imminent, the most powerful land-owner and canniest political operator in Carmarthenshire, Lord Dryslwyn, hedged his bets and declared himself early to be a Welsh Nationalist.  Indeed, he declared himself to be not only the heir to the ancient Kingdom of Deheubarth due to his descent from Lord Rhys, Prince of Wales (which is not in doubt), but also to ‘Arthurian’ times and the Kingdom of Dyfed due to his alleged descent from the Princes of Narberth (impossible to prove either way).  He has even re-titled himself as ‘Lord Rhys’ and clearly also has designs on any future Throne of Wales.  However, there are rumoured to be several rival potential monarchs scattered abut Wales, from heirs of Llewellyn the Great to an alleged heir of Owain Glyndŵr himself!  Nevertheless, Lord Rhys is undoubtedly by far the most powerful potential Welsh monarch.

This move was a massive gamble for Lord Rhys, but through sheer force of personality and undoubted popularity, he has managed to maintain his social position within Carmarthenshire and to largely preserve his power and estates, while simultaneously opposing the government and English hegemony over Wales.  Of course, he’s got a lot of cash and that buys influence, men and weapons.  A string of early victories against Loyalist forces in Carmarthenshire, as well as against the Reds in the coal-mining districts of the upper Amman, Loughor and Gwendraeth Valleys also helped to secure his Welsh Nationalist credentials.

Needless to say, the traditional Welsh Nationalist politicians despise him as an opportunist aristocrat, but what they really can’t stand is that the people always seem to fall for charming aristocrats and would-be monarchs!

The ‘Kingdom of Dyfed’ presently covers most of Sir Caerfyrddin (Carmarthenshire), plus parts of Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) and Brycheiniog (Brecon).  In the west they hold a narrow front west of St Clear’s against the Loyalist Pembrokeshire enclave.  One of their early victories against the King was in establishing a bridgehead west of the River Tâf, thereby taking Laugharne, Llanddowror and Pendine and establishing a fortified camp on the high ground between St Clear’s and the Loyalist stronghold of Tavernspite.

To the north of St Clear’s there is a tense stand-off with the Welsh Nationalist Republic of Cantref Cemaes along the River Cynin and at the town of Newcastle Emlyn on the River Teifi.  Lord Rhys would like to woo them into the Kingdom, but they seem resolutely opposed to any external government, especially any return to a form of principality or monarchy.  Further north and much to the Welsh Republic’s annoyance, Lord Rhys holds the ancient Ceredigion college town of Lampeter.  It was here that he won his greatest victory to date; forcing out the Loyalist garrison (which retreated to Cardigan) and seizing large quantities of weapons and ammunition.  He also captured the large British Army training camp at Sennybridge, again securing considerable stocks of military materiel.

However, several besieged Loyalist enclaves remain within Lord Rhys’ domain at Carmarthen, Llandeilo, Llandovery and Brecon and he presently lacks sufficient military power to tie them all down.  He is resolved to destroy each one in turn, starting with Carmarthen.  There is also the problem of the Reds; Communist, Anarchist and Socialist militias presently hold large swathes of industrial south-east Carmarthenshire, including the large towns of Llanelli, Kidwelly, Pembrey, Burry Port, Crosshands and Ammanford.  To secure these would mean a considerable boost in the Kingdom’s economy, as well as access to overseas trade.  However, the Reds are implacably opposed to an unreconstructed reactionary like Lord Rhys.

With excellent access to sheep, woollen mills and dyers and having largely preserved stability and industry within his domain (particularly the very small-scale steel-working industry in eastern Carmarthenshire), Lord Rhys’ Army of the Kingdom of Dyfed is somewhat better-dressed than most Welsh armies.  As with many Welsh Nationalist factions, green remains the predominant uniform colour for the Army of Dyfed, though Lord Rhys’ household troops are known to wear red or a combination of red and green.  There are also a lot of captured khaki uniforms in evidence; often modified with regimental facing colours.  Recognition armbands and helmet-stripes are white over bright green.

The flag of the Kingdom of Dyfed is a bright green & white flag, split vertically, with green at the hoist and white at the fly.  In the centre are the Arms of Dyfed, being a royal blue shield displaying a gold lion rampant, surrounded by four gold roses.  The personal banner of Lord Dryslwyn was originally a black, upward-pointing black chevron on a white field, with three standing black ravens (two above and one below the chevron).  Since elevation to become Lord Rhys, this is now quartered with the arms of Dyfed described above.

A Note on the ‘Flag of St David’

I’ve noticed that a few AVBCW players like to use the so-called ‘Flag of St David’ for Welsh Nationalists.  However, you might be interested to know that the use of this flag is a VERY modern phenomenon, being accidentally started only about ten years ago by a Greek restaurant-owner recently moved to Cardiff in the early 2000s.  He wanted to establish his Welsh credentials, so in preparation for a Welsh rugby international, ordered a few dozen ‘Flags of St David’ for his customers to take to the match.  The flag-maker was confused and produced a load of flags bearing the central design of the arms of the Bishop of St David’s (a sulphur yellow cross on a black field).  It proved extremely popular and it has rapidly become an alternative national flag among the ignorant.

However, this design is NOT the flag of St David.  Saints only get a cross flag when they are martyred and St David died of old age (otherwise they have a saltire flag or simply nothing at all).  The design is purely the arms of the Bishop of St David’s and has never been any sort of national symbol until very recently.  It has been used by a few establishments such as St David’s College in Lampeter, due to the patronage of a former Bishop and not because of the St David title.

It’s roughly the equivalent of Americans who think that they’re entitled to use the coat of arms of someone with the same surname.

In a 1938 context it therefore makes no sense to have it as a Welsh Nationalist symbol – particularly as the Bishop of St David’s would be part of the Anglican reactionary establishment. I know that everybody has their own ideas of AVBCW, but I do like to use a historical basis as some sort of starting point for the AVBCW silliness.  Consequently, my Bishop of St David’s uses his flag extensively, while my Welsh Nationalists regard it as the mark of the enemy!

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