British Army: 2300AD
General History 2000-2303
Admitting the truth of the expense, I say that the country has not a choice between Army and no Army, between peace and war. They must have a large and efficient Army, one capable of meeting the enemy abroad, or they must expect to meet him at home: and then farewell to all considerations of measures of greater or lesser expense, and to the ease, the luxury and happiness of England.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
The British Isles have not been successfully invaded since the Norman Invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066. For much of the intervening time the island nation's first line of defence was her navy, a force that would become the backbone for the largest Empire the world has yet known, eclipsing in relative terms both the ancient Roman Empire and the modern French equivalent. Without much hyperbole the 2nd British Empire can be said to have laid the building blocks for the modern world.
The British Army has rarely been called upon to defend its own lands, instead it has fought primarily as an expeditionary force far from home. At times building empires, oppressing nations, defeating tyranny and now fighting barbaric aliens. Every continent on Earth has seen British blood scattered upon it, and now so have many colony worlds. The British Army is an idiosyncratic institution, proud of its long heritage and historic customs. Many critics decry its lack of modernity and its studied archaisms, but none can truly challenge its fighting qualities. The British have lost many battles, but they have not lost a war for over 500 years.
The British Army survived the holocaust of World War III primarily because of its tribal nature. Its often derided regimental system forming a ideal and rallying point to which its soldiers, pre-war regulars, territorials and even foreign volunteers could cling to in the chaos of the Armageddon. As the war in Europe ground to a halt the Rhine Army returned to the British Isles and formed a major part of the reconstruction effort which became known as the 'Pacification'.
The British Army had to re-organised and re-equip but to its credit, and with French aid, was able to provide a small Armoured Division for operations in Arabia in 2008. Other dispersed British garrisons emerged as key players in local politics world-wide. In the post war period the British Army became a key foreign currency earner as the British provided troops to help the French enforce the so-called 'French Peace'. It was during this period that the British Army became sneeringly referred to as 'France's Gurkhas'. However the French political and economic aid received as a quid pro quo was vital to Britain's recovery.
After 2070 British participation in French operations became less commonplace. Britain had once again become a trading nation by necessity, her soil couldn't produce enough food whilst the industries of the Tyne, Wear and Tees could produce finished goods for trade. The Army became neglected as the Royal Navy once again burgeoned to protect the new merchant fleet.
With manpower an ever-present problem since the war even more units and regiments amalgamated or were disbanded for good. The Army began to stagnate, living on former glories, lacking money or the willingness for innovation. The small regular Army was reorganised as a adjunct to the Royal Marines of the fleet, whilst the Territorial Army expanded slightly to take on the Home Defence role. No plans were laid for intervention on the European continent, so strong was this stricture that British units bolstering the Dutch Army were actually administered by the Dutch as a part of their establishment.
The first major military showdown since WW3 came in the 2150's when Argentina attempted to annex the British Antarctic territories, and its valuable tantalum deposits. Airborne forces quickly reinforced the small garrison and troops massed in allied Azania ready for action, before Argentina backed down in the face of the massive Royal Navy task force. Although no major battles occurred the parlous state of the regular army reaction forces became a contentious political issue. A programme of reform was launched and the Antarctic Garrisons heavily reinforced.
The Argentina was shortly to be the spur again for further expansion as a result of the Alpha Centauri War. Whilst the decisive action was fought that star system the South Atlantic was also a scene of major tension. Anglo-French carrier groups imposed a blockade on the Argentine coast and skirmishes between opposing aircraft were common. British forces massed in the area, whilst the 7th Armoured Brigade formed part of a French Expeditionary Force in Brazil. However the end of the war came before any further hostilities occurred on Earth.
The aftermath of the Alpha Centauri War was mainly felt in the first major expansion of the Army since the 1990's. The Royal Marines had previously had a monopoly on providing colonial forces but it was soon obvious that they lacked the resources to adequately pursue this mission. The Tiranean colony of New Albion was to quickly receive a garrison provided by the newly reformed 4th Division. Other colonies would also have British Army garrisons to secure British sovereignty, although on a smaller scale.
The remainder of the century saw the army concentrating on its rapid reaction and colonial service roles. With new wealth flooding in from the colonies the army was no longer working on a shoestring, even with the expansion of the Royal Space Navy. The glamour of colonial service also opened the army to new sources of recruitment as the population finally returned to its pre-Twilight level.
The first half of the 23rd century was dominated militarily by the 1st and 2nd Rio Plato Wars in South America. Any instability in that area caused major concern for the British, many of whose tantalum mines were located in the area. The first two wars brought about another re-vamp of the rapid reaction forces, but also a revitalisation of the neglected armoured forces. This period saw the introduction of the two Air Assault Brigades on Earth and the Light Division for colonial service. The three Earth based Armoured Divisions were re-organised to a fuller strength and with greatly increased combat support assets.
Most notably was the formation of II Corps to command any expeditionary force the British might put into the field. At this time much of II Corps planning looked at possibly fighting alongside the Brazilians should Argentina again threaten British holdings in the Antarctic.
In the Colonies the power of the British Army had reached a high tide. Two divisions were present on Wellon (as New Albion became) alongside locally recruited forces. On Beowulf tension between British and French colonies had emerged and was increasing. Later a treaty removed Anglo-French regulars from the contentious region, but this only opened the way for hot-headed local paramilitaries to cause more problems. In the outer colonies the military presence was in a highly mobile troubleshooting force backing up paramilitary police forces.
The 3rd Rio Plato War was a major problem for the British. The initial declaration of the Inca Republic and opening of hostilities brought her to the brink of entering the war. Although II Corps was stood to for action only the 7th Armoured Brigade was deployed to the Brazilian Army as foreign service troops. The brigade saw action later in the war as a Corps reserve and performed excellently, ratcheting up the political tension between the British and Argentines even further. Lessons learnt in the conflict were primarily in relearning the value of comprehensive logistics in heavy overseas operations.
These lessons were reinforced by the Central Asian War, in which a few British battalions fought in French service, and applied throughout the deployment forces of I and II Corps with a complete organisational overhaul and introduction of new equipment. The increasing political maturity of the colonies also allowed the re-deployment of large numbers of troops back to the core. An entire Armoured Division was brought back from Wellon, whilst other deployments were rationalised into smaller units. A vast expansion of armoured units took place at this time.
The aftermath of the Central Asian War saw a military junta take power in France, Britain's long term ally. Also German nationalism was once again on the rise as another European ally, Hannover, attempted to reunify the German states. This first major European instability in 250 years caused Britain to reassess her defence priorities, the possibility of II Corps intervening in a 4th Rio Plato War receded and warfare in heavily urbanised Europe looked more likely. The War of German Reunification saw Britain torn between two allies, and thus sitting out the conflict to the disappointment of both allies. However the tension in Europe remained high.
Naturally the next conflict took place in an entirely unexpected location, far at the end of the French Arm. Initially the contact with the Kafers didn't effect Britain, and only a few specialist units saw conflict on Aurore. However when the Kafers invaded for real in 2301 Britain was caught somewhat unaware, and although her regular and colonial units fought well many of her colonies were occupied through sheer force of numbers. It quickly became obvious that a major effort was required to halt the Kafer juggernaught.
II Corps was designated to led the British part of the counter-attack. Units were reorganised to be more quickly move by starships and allied and Commonwealth forces were integrated into the command structure. The Territorial Army was restructured to provide the bulk of the forces for the British Isles, and nearly half of the regular army was deployed off-world. The British Army has fought well so far in the Liberation, once again fighting as an expeditionary force far from the shores of its home.
Copyright 2009, D Hebditch