Blackborough: A Complete History of a Non-Existent Place (Part 6)
Blackborough Between the Wars (1921 – 1938 AD)
The population of the city of Blackborough reaches 430,000 as the British Empire reaches its greatest extent.
UK unemployment rises dramatically at the beginning of the decade reaching more than two million in 1921 before beginning to fall.
The Irish War of Inependence sees a series of bloody ambushes between the IRA and British Troops and the Burning of the Customs House in Dublin. The war ends in a truce in late 1921
The Tories led by Bonar Law win the 1922 election but Labour overtakes the liberals as the second major party.
A coal miner’s strike leads to a state of emergency and coal rationing.
The province of Northern Ireland is officially created as part of the UK. Soon after the Irish Free State gains independence in the south. In 1922 the last British troops leave southern Ireland.
Severe drought hits England.
The BBC is formed, funded by an annual broadcasting licence fee of ten-shillings for everyone who owns a wireless radio. The Prince of Wales becomes the first royal to be heard on the radio.
The rise in unemployment is somewhat cushioned in Blackborough by the opening of a large new box factory in the north of town but nevertheless hundreds of once proud men are put out of work and coal shortages threaten both industry and ordinary families.
The old Arsenal is demolished and the workers move to the new Merdin arsenal. The city council has purchased the site of the old Arsenal with the intention of creating a new public space at the centre of the city: “Arsenal Park”. The land around the new park is rapidly snapped up by private developers to build shops and offices.
New high rises, apartment buildings and terraces are constructed. Architects are beginning to build up rather than out, with a twelve-storey “sky-scraper” planned on the island of Westburgh that will feature shops and offices on the ground floor and flats above.
In 1922 the struggling Blackborough Motor Company is bought out by the Austin Motor Company. Austin continues to produce the Blackborough Motor Company’s most successful models such as the Blackborough Coupe but halts production of the company’s less successful models. The injection of cash from the take-over leads to expansion of the manufacturing plant in the north of the city with the expanded plant equipped to produce the Austin 7, one of the first British cars to be aimed at a mass market.
Renovation work is carried out at the ancient Church of St Dubnus, and a glass case installed to allow visitors to view the head of St Dubnus in its golden reliquary. The renovations ae unveiled on the 20th of September 1922, St Dubnu’s feast day, and local businesses (seeing an opportunity to boost consumer spending) fund the first annual Blackborough Make-Merry to celebrate the day, a festival held on Northwood Common, with food stalls, music and dancing. Several bandstands are erected for the occasion and thousands of people flock to the common to forget their troubles with a big-ass party.
The new British Broadcasting Corporation or “BBC” establishes a broadcasting station close to Northwood House.
At the Hayston Academy of Arts, a small group of art students have begun experimenting with a ground-breaking new style of art. The circle of artists, known as the Blackborough Set, are concerned with creating art that reflects the transitions occurring in society and the urban landscape. Rather than looking to the past the Blackborough Set are interested in the future, however unlike the utopian futurists their work is not hopeful, but rather reflects the noise and smoke and toil of the industrial city around them. As such the artistic movement they create, dubbed “Black Futurism”, features abstract, nightmarish visions of machines, impossible endless cityscapes, and broken fragmented depictions of human bodies.
In order to raise funds for his long-delayed golf-course the Earl of Blackborough sells the botanical gardens at Northwood House to the University of Blackborough. The University begins expanding the gardens and plans to build a Botanical College nearby.
The House of Commons approves plans for the construction of an underground railway network to serve the people of Blackborough. The metro system is planned to consist of two lines, each with around twenty stations connected by tunnels large enough and with high enough loading gauges to run bi-level train cars. The double-decker trains will have the potential to carry hundreds of thousands of people beneath the city to their destinations every day. The underground network will pass under the St Dubnus river at two points, and a tunnel-bridge emerging from the cliffside will connect the network to Rothray to serve the naval base.
The designs for the underground stations are done in a modern Art Deco style and each surface level station will be decorated with a statue representing the local area.
Work on the ambitious plan begins in 1922 with the first tunnels excavated and land cleared for the surface level entrances. By the end of the year a dozen stations have been started. The network is expected to be completed by the end of the decade.
Katarina Vana, known by many as “The Russian Widow”, expands her criminal empire, with the opening of a third nightclub, the Emerald Room, and begins using call girls and rentboys to Blackmail senior members of government.
The city buys back the Crescent Hill Standing Stones from their private owner and pulls down the wall enclosing them. In the process part of the 5th century church which once stood next to the stones is uncovered, and archaeologists are brought in to excavate the rest of the church.
The population of Redhall falls slightly as increasingly the area becomes somewhere where people work, shop, worship and sight-see but where few people can afford to actually live. The one exception is the red light district just north of the park. Despite some attempts at gentrification the area remains a haven for struggling artists, down-and-outs, and of course organised crime.
Continuing the fine tradition of corruption, fornication and buggery set by his forebears, the new Bishop of Canute’s Cathedral spends a wild weekend with a couple of Katarina Vana’s girls. The Russian Matiarch adds him to the list of notable figures she has dirt on. Don’t expect the Bishop to be calling for strong action against organised crime or prostitution anytime soon.
The new arsenal opens and some workers relocate to Merdin to be closer to the complex of munitions factories, laboratories and texting grounds.
The miner’s strike leads to violent reprisals against those who cross the picket line in Merdin.
One of the remaining mines in Merdin closes. As a sop to the disgruntled miners the Merdin Mining Company opens an “Old Miner’s Home”, essentially a retirement facility for elderly retired miners.
Work continues on the imposing catholic cathedral, which should be completed by 1923.
Henderson Wood Train Station is expanded and construction begins on an adjoining underground station.
Merdin Royal Infirmary and Merdin Royal Hospital (the asylum) is expanded. Dr Crane is made a peer in the House of Lords for his work in mental illness however some of the contractors working on the asylum report disturbing sights such as frequent beatings and dozens of patients crammed into one room. For now no one mentions it, and the scandal is kept quiet.
New homes and factories are built on the north bank of the brook.
Ethel May Parker becomes a nurse and relocates to Merdin.
Abbeywood Pleasure Park opens, bringing in huge crowds of holiday makers who marvel at the electric illuminations, gasp at the freak show, thrill at the roller-coasters, and gaze in wonder from the top of the Sea Wheel.
North Abbeywood Station opens,
New hotels and shops spring up catering to the tourists.
New factories are built along the waterfront.
The Vulcain beach Chinatown expands rapidly.
A multi-purpose sports field and clubhouse is constructed close to Moran House.
The elderly Moran passes away. In his will he excludes his pacifist son and instead leaves his shares in the huge Moran Company to his daughter, Alice Moran.
Construction begins on the Edmondsley dog racing track.
“Northumbrian Polytechnic” is founded just to the south of Edmondsley. The large new educational institution offers training in engineering, manufacturing, accountancy and design.
The new Wildfield Aerodrome is completed and begins receiving several commercial flights a week.
Construction begins on a huge hangar for building airships to the north, due to be completed next year.
Property developers begin work on a whole new sector of the city, planned to include houses, offices, factories, churches and schools.
Work begins on a bridge tunnel that will one day connect Rothray to the underground network via a special branch line controlled by the navy, in order to bring in men and materials from the mainland more quickly.
The families evicted from the island before the Great War lose their latest legal challenge to be allowed to return.
The Earl of Blackborough finally succeeds in securing investment for his golf course, to be built on an area of land in the south-west corner of the map.
The Saul Sugar Company plans to open a new chocolate factory in the same area and a model village to be built nearby to house the worker.
The as-yet unnamed village is expected to be completed in the next four years and house 2500 workers.
The Flying Scotsman train, newly started on it’s route from London to Edinburgh, stops at Blackborough Central Station on the way to Edinburgh, Scotland. The line is still run today.
A new furniture factory is completed and opens the same year, but fails to alleviate the unemployed miners and other unemployed workers as the jobs are filled up quickly.
More 4 story apartments are built in the north of the city.
Rupert Walker, a local athletic runner, wins second at the 1924 Paris Olympics, behind fellow Briton Harold Abrahams. Also, another local runner, Ben Forrest, comes third in the 400m race, also won by a fellow Briton, Eric Liddell. This boosts public perceptions of sports, particularly athletics.
Katarina Vana expands her criminal empire, attracting the attention of the City of Blackborough Police, particular newly appointed Commissioner Robert Leigh-Hogan, who was recently sent to Chicago as a British Representative for how to fight crime. Their forces will eventually butt heads around the Ruby Room, near Arsenal Park on July 28, 1924.
A band of 275 policemen, armed with Webley Mark IV revolvers and the new Sheepsgrave Model 23 shotguns, tried to raid the Ruby Room in suspicion of holding a criminal business there. However, armed guardsmen hired by the Russian Widow guarding the Ruby Room started shooting at the policemen, starting a vicious street battle that lasts almost 3 days, killing 98 police men and 45 armed thugs.
Witnesses described the battle as vicious as the urban battles of the Irish Civil War, with makeshift barricades dotting the street, as armed policemen fired down the street at equally armed paid thugs of the Russian Widow. The CBP are also nastily introduced to the Thompson M1921 SMG, smuggled from the U.S by smuggling outfits in the City of Blackborough Docks. Eventually troops from the Stendham Barracks, equipped with Lee-Enfield rifles forced the paid thugs back, but failing to capture the Ruby Room.
Commissioner Leigh-Hogan declared his goal of eradicating the Russian Widow’s criminal empire, saying it would not stand for policemen being killed doing their jobs, or lives ruined by the Russian Widow’s henchmen.
The Catholic Cathedral is completed in Early 1924.
As more of the mines go out of buisness, and more of the younger miners lose their jobs, along with the massive death toll during the First World War, the general mood of Merdin is one of despair and misery. As a major consequence, Merdin is a huge recruitment pool for the new gang called the Rathsbury Linkers, which at the end of 1924 expanded
it’s influence over the neighbourhood.
Police in the area are greatly outnumbered in the area, but due to the rise of the Russian Widow, the police forces in the area are already streched thin as it is.
New Sheepsgraves Arsenal starts producing military standard Browning BAR rifles for the British Army, for a suppressing fire role, standardised as the Browning BAR M1923.
Also, it licenses the Winchester Model 12 as the Sheepsgrave Model 23 shogun, and sales it to the City of Blackborough Police and the RN garrison stationed on Rothray and the British Military.
Northumbrian Polytechnic University introduces its first class of junior engineers, designers and manufacturaing freshmen to the college. In response to the influx of students, Edmondsley buys out the old farmland and builds college dormitories in the town.
On March 23, 1924 at Wildfield Aerodome, a Imperial Airways Handley Page Type W crashed in an spectacular accident, that kills all 12 people on board. It is also caught by on film by a movie camera from Orientem Film, which was put into a newsreel that was shown across the UK.
Also, Wildfield Aerodome expands, with a few new hangars opened and a proper tarmac paved to allow planes to park on it, so it could hold more planes a hour, which allows passengers to board planes via primitive ground stairs. A fence is built around the entrance to the airport.
The Rothray Naval Officers College of 1924 will produce a class of 238, including captains and naval officers that will shape the naval doctrine for the early 1930’s and 1940’s. These innovators in naval doctrine include Jason Dunham and William Carlisle.
Blackborough rocketry society is founded and a club house built outside town. Every other month or so, a rocket whizzes off the launch pad. The rocket club soon becomes one of the foremost society’s for rocketry in the country.
A new housing development is built on the outskirts of town. It is marketed as the ideal place for the upper middle class.
The Russian Widow’s empire takes a huge hit when her right hand man, George Maskine is caught in a sting raid. Her attempts to entrap the new mayor fail as well.
The old clinic is converted into a kind of visitor centre by the newly formed friends of St Canute’s cathedral, who take advantage of the people visiting the cathedral, with the full support of the bishop.
The imbecile colony is discovered to overcrowded and in need of major work. The overcrowding is put partly down to the sheer volume of people put there. Four new accommodation blocks are put up. They have running water and indoor toilets. A new school is built as well.
In Abbeywood a new Lido is opened. Swimmers have the choice of a freshwater pool, or a salt water pool.
During the general strike of 1926, many factories and the transport infrastructure shut down. A fight between some thugs (Reportedly provided by the Russian widow,) and some strikers in order to force them back to work fails, but a block of houses catches fire in the struggle killing 8 people, all but one of them women and children. The housing was terribly overcrowded and leads to the council ordering a slum inspection committee to inspect housing
In 1927 the total population of the city reaches more than half a million.
Blackborough becomes the centre of the futurism artistic movement, which spreads from painting into British architecture, sculpture and film.
Blackborough continues to avoid the relative stagnation that characterizes much of the rest of the UK during the 1920s and goes from strength to strength. That is until the crash hits in ’29 and Blackborough’s fortunes
In 1928 the first line of the Blackborugh Metro is completed, with fifteen stations allow people to travel quickly and efficiently beneath the city aboard the art deco style double-decker subway carriages. Work begins on a second line running north to south with a handful of stations built but the funding quickly dries up following the Wall Street Crash in 1929.
The Old Town continues to become increasingly commercial with few homes left.
Major new offices and banks open on Westburgh Island.
New homes and shops are built along the new northwest road (“Greenheath Road”), with poorer people living close to the prison and the middle class living further out in the new suburbs.
New factories open, including an oil cake mill in the north-east.
The Northwood allotments are expanded.
In 1935 the Silver Jubilee streamliner A4 locomotive is introduced, hauling an express passenger service between Blackborough and London King’s Cross.
Following the Wall Street Crash the Saul Syrup Company goes into receivership and the refinery in Blackborough closes and is torn down.
A number of factories close in Northbridge leading to a rise in unemployment in the area. The city seeks to replace the remaining slums in Northbridge with new council estate housing.
During the twenties and thirties Blackborough became an important centre for the futurist movement
The residential population of Redhall falls over this decade as Redhall continues to develop into a shopping and entertainment district.
The Russian Widow’s criminal empire slowly unravels as those politicians she had dirt on gradually retire or lose office, and the new generation of leaders are too canny to be entrapped by her. Yet arresting the criminal matriarch remains unthinkable as her trial would embarrass too many in the old boys’ club. Instead, in 1935, Ms. Vana is given a one way ticket to the USA and informed by the British secret service that she should keep her head down, her mouth shut and never set foot in the UK again or else she’ll wake up with a bullet in her brain.
Vana’s remaining interests and assets in the city are seized, either by the police or by local rivals, and the Ruby Room, once her criminal HQ and jewel in her empire of night clubs, sits empty. The fall of the Russian Widow does not bring about an end to sleaze in Redhall as local criminals move in to take over the clubs.
As fear of war grows new coastal defences are built.
Most of the remaining mines in Merdin are closed, along with several factories.
This is the final straw for a part of the city that has gotten economically deprived for centuries and now finds the industries it relies on leaving the city.
In 1936 almost a thousand men walk for 26 days from Merdin to London in order to deliver a petition to the government requesting the mines be re-opened, stopping at towns, villages, and the Labour Party Conference along the way.
Upon arrival in London the Merdin Marchers address crowds in Hyde Park and a cross-party committee of MPs to call for economic revival in Merdin. The marchers are given a heroes’ welcome when they return to Merdin, but ultimately the government does little to help the people of Merdin.
Soon after the march war industries begin starting up in Merdin as Britain arms for the coming conflict with Germany.
The Keeltown slum is torn down and replaced with the Keeltown Council Estate.
New bridges are built across Merdin Brook and some gentrification begins to take place on the riverside with a better class of shops moving in and some of the slums to the south cleared.
Dr Crane dies and the Merdin Royal Hospital is renamed the Crane Memorial Hospital. Both the Crane Memorial Hospital and the Merdin Royal Infirmary are expanded.
New middle-class homes and shops are built close to the university.
A large RAF base opens just north of Abbeywood.
A carelessly discarded cigarette sets the Royal Albert Pier alight, fortunately no one is killed but nothing is left of the pier but a blackened skeleton.
A new pier is built even longer than the first, the New Pier is a commercial success whilst the charred and boarded up Royal Albert Pier becomes a landmark and a future hangout for trespassing teenagers.
New arms factories spring up in Eastmoreland. The Moran Company, with its armaments and chemical subsidiaries, has become one of the world’s largest corporations, and eagerly anticipates new military contracts.
With space in short supply property developers are increasingly building upwards, constructing large new apartment buildings in Frogmore and Eastmoreland.
The Vulcain Beach Chinatown continues to expand and in 1936 a group of Chinese businessmen in Eastmoreland have an ornate paifang arch brought over to the city from the old country to stand at the entrance to Chinatown.
Tenements are erected in the Titanic Quarter.
The train line is extended with new stations in Eastmoreland and Vulcain Beach.
The population of Edmondsley grows significantly, but the closure of the nearby Merdin Mines puts many men in Edmondsley out of work.
A large new school and church are built.
Northumbria Polytechnic purchases land to expand their campus.
The aircraft manufacturing plant is expanded and retrofitted to begin producing Spitfires.
The population density of Wildfield increases as farms are replaced with homes and shops and the tram-line is extended.
The Orientem Film company have a series of highly successful movies after hiring the writer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
The Elizabeth-class warship HMS Warspite is moored at Rothray for training and coastal defence.
Work begins on hardening defences at the naval base.
The chocolate factory closes after the Saul Sugar Company goes bust following the Wall Street Crash.
The closure of the sugar factory leaves hundreds of people unemployed, and with construction abandoned on the model town for the workers, private landlords move in to build sub-standard homes.
Crime and poverty soars as Sugar Park develops into a slum. For now the city council refuse to take responsibility for what was meant to be a private self-contained village for the chocolate factory workers.
Whilst the dark clouds gather overhead and war begins to look inevitable the ordinary people of Blackborough largely continue their lives as normal.
There are some changes of course, the population of the city has been issued with gas masks, new coastal defences and bomb shelters are built, and Jewish refugees and the children of the Kindertransport arrive in the city, including a seven-year old Frank Auerbach who will go on to become one of the area’s most famous artists.
Speaking of art, the English Futurism movement centred in Blackborough has begun to fall out of favour as some see Futurism as tainted by fascism and militarism.
The London and North Eastern Railway’s streamlined Class A4 4468 Mallard becomes the world’s fastest steam locomotive reaching speeds of 126 mph on the track between Blackborough and York.
Construction begins on a new hospital on the north-eastern road (“Greenheath Hospital”) running out of Blackborough and new houses and apartments are built in the area.
The over-crowded North Blackborough Prison is expanded and a new exercise yard built.
New roads are built running north and east out of the city. New factories spring up along the eastern road.
The drydock at Wolfe’s Shipyard is overhauled and modernised to accommodate larger ships.
Blackborough United football club have the worst season in their history, losing to both their rivals: Redhall Athletic in the League and Sunderland in the derby.
In 1938, Blackborough Brown Ale (affectionately known as “Blackie Brown” in the north-east of England) becomes the best-selling ale in the world.
This year’s Make-Merry Festival goes ahead as usual but the celebration takes on a melancholy air as people wonder whether war will come before the next Make-Merry.
Redhall Athletic defeat Blackborough United 3-1 for the first time in their history.
New navel defences and a recruitment office are built at Baltic dock.
A new art-deco style cinema opens in the red light district.
New luxury apartments are built along the canal close to Crescent Hill Park.
Substandard homes on the eastern waterfront are demolished with plans to replace them with apartments.
In the summer, during the historic annual Frog Swim, a boy drowns. The future of the yearly swim along Frog’s Pond Canal is cast in to doubt.
Struggling Merdin receives an economic boost as local industry ramps up in preparation for war.
Armed robbers make off with almost £100,000 from a bank in central Merdin, in one of the largest robberies in history.
Ethel May Parker (Britain’s oldest woman as of 2015) becomes ward matron at the Merdin Royal Infirmary at the age of 37.
An overpass is built over the railway and a road tunnel beneath it.
New canning, machine tool and textile factories open.
Plans are drawn up for a second runway at RAF Abbeywood.
A military recruitment office opens on the New Pier.
New hotels and homes spring up in East Abbeywood along the beach front, whilst further in-land in less salubrious parts of Abbeywood new factories are built.
The population of Abbeywood has grown larger than the population of Redhall for the first time in the city’s history.
Moran Company arms factories ramp up production as Britain arms itself in preparation for war, however it is not just weapons that are boosting the company’s profits.
A synthetic polymer first produced at the Moran Chemical Division’s laboratories proves to have a number of interesting properties. The thermoplastic, named “Nevron” (OTL Nylon) goes into wider production at the Moran Company’s Eastmoreland facility and is first used in toothbrush bristles, with future possible applications under consideration.
More apartment buildings and offices are constructed along the waterfront.
Vulcain Beach Chinatown has grown into the UK’s third largest Chinese community.
To great fanfare the Titanic Quarter shipyard launches RMS Queen Elizabeth; the largest ship in the world.
A new road is built running south to Sunderland.
Land between Northumbria Polytechnic and the Arsenal is set aside for public sports fields.
The city is shocked by the discovery of a mutilated corpse in the woods near Edmondsley.
The Orientem Film company has their last major hit film before the war with Robin Hood (1938) written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film is now widely considered a masterpiece of English cinema for its beautiful painted backdrops and brooding atmosphere.
A transporter bridge is built to carry workers across the river between South Wildfied and the factories in Merdin. The unusual structure becomes something of a local attraction.
The new defences at the Rothray Naval Base are completed.
Newly signed up sailors train on HMS Warspite, moored at Rothray.
Sugar Park remains economically depressed following the closure of the chocolate factory.
The slums expand as the city authorities continue to refuse to take responsibility for a community that started as a private model village funded by the defunct Saul Sugar Company.
With the status of the area in contention and creditors looking to collect on the land only the most desperate people choose to move into the area.
The Blackborough Blitz (1939-1946 AD)
“The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour” – Winston Churchill
Between January and September 1939, the city of Blackborough makes preparations for a war that increasingly appears as inevitable as it does terrible.
In March construction begins on a line of concrete pillboxes forming a defensive chain close to the beach. The defences incorporate existing pillboxes that have sat empty and derelict since the First World War as well as the elevated embankment built on top of the city’s main surface level sewer pipe.
However if Blackborough’s physical defences are archaic, it’s air-defence is scheduled to become state-of-the-art in 1939 with plans to expand the “Chain Home” radar system to cover the north-east.
As the summer draws on and the country edges closer to war with Germany, new housing developments come to a halt, with the last pre-war housing project being a terrace of houses between Wildfield and Blackborough prison.
In the months leading up to the war fear of air raids leads several thousand people to choose to leave Blackborough and soon after official evacuation begins with around 10,000 of the city’s children re-located to areas deemed lower risk, along with thousands of disabled people and pregnant mothers.
In anticipation of an air war some industry is also relocated and “shadow factories” set-up, the largest of which is an aircraft factory attached to the Austin Motor manufacturing plant in North Blackborough, in the hopes of disguising the factory from the Germans. By 1940 the North Blackborough Aircraft Assembly is complete and begins producing Supermarine Spitfires at a rate of 40 a week.
At the end of August 1939 work begins on a new gunpowder mill in the woods on the northern outskirts of Blackborough, expected to be completed in early 1941.
On the eve of war Anderson Shelters were built in gardens throughout the city.
And then, on the sunny morning of the 3rd of September 1939, people across Blackborough stand silent as the BBC instructs listerners to standby for an announcement of national importance. After an agonising wait the Prime minister’s announcement finally comes at 11.15 AM:
“I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by eleven o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany. Now may God bless you all. May He defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution and against them I am certain that the right will prevail”.
Following the announcement of war there are some minor panics and some false alarms as the city waits to see what happens next.
Gas masks are issued to every man, woman and child in Blackborough.
At the beginning of 1940 rationing and military service impacts many of the city’s service based businesses whilst war industries expand.
Coastal defences are strengthened with great reams of barbed wire strung along the beaches and and Emergency Coastal Batteries built.
AA guns are also put in place around the city in anticipation of attack from the air.
In February a German U-boat sinks a coal ship just off the coast of Blackborough, with the loss of all hands.
Following the passage of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1940 concerns about air attacks on industry lead the government to force the Moran Company to relocate some of its war-essential factories out of Eastmoreland to Blackborough and Abbeywood.
In March the tunnels of the uncompleted second line of the Blackborough Metro are opened as a communal air raid shelter.
A German mine washes up in the mouth of the St Dubnus, destroying a house and part of Northbridge Dock.
In May a German Heinkel He 111H on a reconnaissance flight is shot down by AA gun fire over Northwood Common. The Pilot survives with minor injuries and is imprisoned at Merdin internment camp.
On July 10 1940 Blackborough suffers its first air raid. The Luftwaffe carries out a night-time attack targeting the Blackborough docks and the Abbeywood air-field.
Several houses close to Wolfe’s shipyard are destroyed and a warehouse damaged. Wolfe’s dry-dock is damaged by bombing but remains operational.
Ropewalk Arcade takes a direct hit causing the southern end of the raised shopping arcade to collapse.
A bomb detonates in the heart of the old town destroying several shops, a pub and a house.
In total 14 civilains were killed and twenty-two injured in the July 10 raid.
Over the rest of the summer three more small air raids damage house on the Northern edge of Northwood Common and part of the tram network, destroy a factory in the Ropewalk area, demolish a factory east of Northwood Common, and destroy the historic King’s Park Cinema, bringing the death total up to 47.
However from November 1940 onwards the Luftwaffe shifts its strategy, increasing focus on industrial cities in the Midlands and North-East.
On 17 November 1940 two German Bomber Groups, Kampfgeschwader 54 and Kampfgeschwader 55, hit Blackborough in a massive raid. Forty thousand incendiary bombs are dropped in one night, and when dawn breaks the full scale of the devastation is revealed.
Houses and shops in Northbridge are obliterated, parts of the Blackborough Elevated Railway are damaged by fire, banks, shops and grand houses close to the Quebec Quarter are destroyed and part of the Brewery Court housing estate and Blackborough Brewery burns to the ground.Northwood house, ancestral home of the Earl of Blackborough, is requisitioned by the military. The site is used for experiments in radar development and electronic navigation countermeasures under the direction of the Air Minstry.
In 1939 the docks at Redhall go into over-drive, handling thousands of tons of materials in preparation for war.
In January 1939 a barrage balloon comes loose, damaging several roof tops.
Following the outbreak of war Redhall is a district without its heart as the theatres close.
In the July 1940 raid several warehouses in Redhall and a housing terrace are destroyed.
The November raid takes an even more devastating toll, destroying river front shops, part of the redlight district, the metro station and damaging part of the Nightingale memorial bridge.
In September 1939, as part of Evacuation the entire population of the “Merdin Imbecile Colony” on the outskirts of the city is relocated to rural institutions and the facility is closed.
Following the outbreak of war a full-scale replica of the Moran Arsenal is built out of wood and canvas to the north-west of the real Arsenal in an attempt to confuse German bombers.
The Imbecile Colony sits empty until May 1940 when large-scale alien internment begins. The facility is repurposed as an internment camp and houses several thousand German and Austrian enemy aliens from across the country.
In the November raid Merdin Grammar School and nearby terraces are partially destroyed, a number of houses burn to the ground and the Merdin Dyeworks is destroyed.
Large parts of the Merdinbrook area are destroyed by incendiary devices.
Ethel May Parker (Britain’s oldest woman as of 2015) becomes a WREN at the age of 38. In 1940 Ethel’s eldest son is killed at Dunkirk.
At the outbreak of the war the pleasure beach and the new pier are closed.
The derelict old Royal Albert Pier is destroyed by Royal Navy Engineers out of fear that it could be used as a landing ground by a German invasion force.
RAF Abbeywood takes superficial damage during the July air raid.
The Abbeywood aeroplane factory is damaged by bombing.
Arms Production ramps up in Frogmore-Eastmoreland and a huge complex of secret factories and developments labs are built underground beneath East Moor.
Part of the sewer outlet is damaged when a German sea mine washes up ashore.
In the November 1940 air raid Frogmore-Eastmoreland is hit hard.
In Frogmore hundreds of homes burn to the ground, a church and a school are destroyed, Frogmore Rail Station is badly damaged and the grand George Street Library is gutted by an incendiary bomb.
In Eastmoreland, part of the Moran Chemical Works is damaged, dozens of homes and shops in Chinatown and the Titanic Quarter are destroyed and the fishpaste factory is obliterated.
The Arsenal (and it’s replica) takes some damage and Northumbria Polytechnic is largely destroyed by a stray bomber.
Edmondsley is largely spared from the bombs, but several more mutilated corpses are found in Edmondsley, suggesting that a serial killer is taking advantage of the confusion of war.
Wildfield Airport is requisitioned by the RAF. The airport is bombed during the November raid and requires extensive repairs.
A nearby farmhouse is destroyed.
Orientem Studios creates a series of short propaganda and public information films and establishes a small animation team which produces two films by the end of 1940.
Two of the animators hired for this project become friends and begin discussing plans to start their own animation company after the war.
Orientem also produce several live-action feature films, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger continue their creative partnership by writing and directing two more films, A Spy in Belgravia (1939) and Niagara Falls (1940), the latter of which is picked up by Columbia Pictures for a US release, scheduled for 1941.
In the lead-up to war Rothray naval base is heavily fortified with AA guns and coastal defences.
The ancient underground hermitage deep beneath the base is packed with explosives and plans are drawn up to blow the entire island sky-high if the base is taken by a German invasion.
A medical supplies company, NorthMed, begins construction on a new factory in Sugar Park.
As the prospect of war becomes increasingly likely, the government wishes to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. In order to grow more food help is needed on the farms and so the government starts the Women’s Land Army in June 1939.
Farmland on the outskirts of town is expanded.
An accidental fire destroys part of the derelict sugar refinery.
The effects of the anglo-american Lend-lease agreement, and post Pearl Harbour, more direct American assistance, seas Wolfs shipyard booming. At some points, the shipyard is pumping out a completed hull every 4 days
On May 10, 1941, at around 1:36 pm, air raid sirens rang out across Blackborough and the surrounding areas, making people doing their business run to the public shelters in the parks and streets and the homemade Anderson Shelters in the back yards of their houses.
The people do not realise but this will be the last bombing raid to hit the city.
It will also be by far the worst.
AA guns across the city began to aim towards the sky as the bombers began to appear near the city. These were the famed Heinkel He-111
Over 1000 people were killed in the raid, which hit areas across the city. Attacks were concentrated but not restricted to Wolfes shipyard, the Blackborough Industrial Park and Wildfield
RAF Abbeywood had two barracks struck by bombs, killing 23. A few bombs managed to hit the runway, but were quickly repaired by year end.
The North Blackborough Aircraft Assembly Factory is hit multiple times by SC-50 and SC250 high explosive fragmentation bombs.
Houses at the Charles Spencer Terrace housing district were hit by incendiaries and multiple high explosive bombs, killing 194. Fires raged
By far most of the casualties are to be found in the tightly packed terraced rows of the Ropewalks, as a result of heavy concentration on the nearby shipyards. At least 600 local residents are known to have died as a result of the bombing on the night and some 400 made homeless.
As so often with wartime bombing, the impact is limited and bares little relation to the physical damage wrought. Wolfs is out of action for little more than 2 days. Those who suffer most are those with the least defence-the poor, the ill and the young.
The district escapes remarkably unscathed on the night of the bombing.
Indeed, the local press, desperate for uplifting news, heavily reports the fact that a performance of Henry V in the Stagecoach Theatre resolutely carried on as the building shook with the impact of bombs falling on the nearby docks and the shipyards over the river.
The only disruption is when German aircraft returning to base pass over the district and drop the unused explosives. Most fall in the river and wash up over the course of the week for the army to defuse.
With the mass homelessness caused in Ropewalks, the Bishop of Redhall wins plaudits when he holds a service for the survivors and opens the precincts of the Cathedral itself to the homeless. Camp beds are laid out for some 350 in the aisles and cloisters of the Cathedral itself.
But Redhall has not in fact escaped. It is devastation deferred, not avoided.
10 days after the bombing, at 3 in the morning, with the all clear sounding after a false alarm of another raid, the temporary residents of the Cathedral are settling back to sleep in their camp beds.
At 3.45 their sleep is interrupted by an almighty explosion and a lethal shower of shrapnel, burning timbers and shattered stone.
In the chaos of the explosion, those who can are escorted or pulled from the cathedral and the Cathedral watch and local fire services flock to the scene. By a stroke of luck the fires are contained-not least because the timbers are sodden after a night of rain.
With the light of day, 182 people are dead under the rubble, and the sight is noticeable across the city and from the other side of the river. It stands a a bleeding scar in the local landscape.
The spire of the ancient Cathedral has entirely collapsed. Only by sheer luck has the fire been contained and the majority of the structure salvaged.
It eventually transpires that a high explosive bomb dropped by returning German bombers lodges unseen at the base of the spire. For 10 days it had sat undetected…….
The Moran Chemical Works is utterly annihilated. Every structure is flattened; the flames are visible for miles around.
One thing though, tt’s the wrong one. The deception works perfectly. The lessons learned will be rolled out across the nation as the war progresses
The tourist trade has slim pickings in this time of war. Some small hotels eek out a living providing food (but rarely lodging) as local residents escape from the misery of wartime life for the occasional day at the beach, (or rather, a day at the promenade, as access to the beach itself is restricted, as the army had littered the sands with landmines in case of German landings) but much of the city is given over to war.
The Grand Imperial Hotel and many of the more venerable old buildings of the district are requisitioned by the government. The Grand Imperial becomes a convalescent home for injured airmen.
Abbeywood tower finds itself used as a radio tower and a coastal lookout point, with its panoramic views for many miles around, both inland and out to sea.
However as a rule, Abbeywood is quiet with the wartime restrictions and many of its men called up, biding its time for peace to be restored and leisure to be an option again.
Much of the vacant land including empty plots of agricultural land, are taken over by the Womens Land Army as part of their `Dig for Victory` campaign
The district largely escapes the May 10th Blitz, and its arms production facilities are rapidly expanded. However on May 8th a German surveillance plane, intercepted by an RAF flight from Abbeywood, crashes and flattens a school. It is 11 in the morning and the school is full, almost 40 children perish.
Amidst this tragedy, there is a potential glimmer of hope-documents are found on the body of the pilot indicating the layout of the Arms factory. It is highly likely that had this aircraft succeeded in its surveillance mission, Frogmore would have have been added to the list of targets to be struck 2 days later.
The wreckage of the aircraft is put in storage by the authorities after the local residents insist it will form part of a memorial to the children.
One spot of light in this dark time is the revelation that, in an abandoned mine shaft in Wales wherein the contents of most of the nations museums are safely stored, a number of priceless Medieval volumes which had formed part of the collection of the bombed out library have been discovered. In the chaos to store the nations treasures away in the early days of war, this small number of manuscripts, on loan to the British Museums Reading Room, had been misfiled and presumed lost.
They will form the core of the post war collection.
The students and staff of Northumbria Polytechnic, deprived of their building, occupy the small and shabby buildings of the nearby Dog Track. As all events have been suspended on the track, they might as well use the empty building
Although nowhere near as badly hit by the May bombing as many other areas, an incendiary bomb does strike one of the storage units on the outer perimeter of the New Sheepsgrave Arsenal. Whilst the main production facility is largely unaffected, the unit by unhappy coincidence had been filled that very day in preparation for collection of a substantial amount of bullets.
The sound of tens of thousands of igniting rounds is said to have been audible over a mile away in the shelters of India Road.
Though largely kept out of the press due to the concerns for the impact on morale, the local community is well aware of the `Blackout Butcher`, as the mysterious assailant is known as.
As his name implies, he generally strikes in the dead of night where, due to wartime light control, the streets are as dark as pitch.
Panic strikes when two Blackout Wardens are found gruesomely murdered in a single night, both with their eyes gouged out. Is this the work of of a lunatic or worse, German Sympathisers?
Watching and writing a private diary of the Blackout and the associated crimes, is an Edmondsley shopkeeper Clive Burrows. His diary will eventually become the post war best seller, which even makes it onto the national curriculum for its vivid portrayal of wartime civilian life (as well as for its juicy portrayal of crime in the period), Blacked-Out-Borough: A diary of war in a northern city.
The War Office approves the two budding animators, William Jones and Alexander Dysart, to produce motivational cartoons in the heavily censored wartime press.
With the entry of the United States to the war, a sudden increase in Anglo-American military and intellectual collaboration results in a number of former and current employees of the Walt Disney Studios being sent to the UK on cultural exchanges. This includes collaboration between Disney and the Orientam Studios, and Jones and Dysart, who take many practical and business tips from their American colleagues.
By the end of the year, the duos cartoons are being promoted by a newly established animation company, Jo-Dy Studios (soon simplified to Jody Studios)
With fears of u-boat attacks upon shipping, and the risk of naval attacks upon the Wolfe shipyards, significant assets of the Home Fleet are relocated from Scapa Flow. The influx of naval personal causes the population of the island to temporarily mushroom
In Sugar Park the NorthMed factory is completed, just weeks after the bombing raid.
Army supply officers and engineers visit Sugar Park to check if the derelict Sugar Factory could be converted. The engineers said it could be converted, and the Army plans to convert it to a Tank factory in the new year.
The local bomb sites are left alone; clearing the area is considered a problem to deal with after the war.
The two cranes used for the moving of the St Dubnus Bridge are cut up as part of a wartime scrap drive.
Four AA Guns are set up at the cricket ground.
A large Raffle is set up to fund a Spitfire. The top prize is £5, but many of the other prizes are attractive in wartime Britain, such as oranges, cakes, clothing, bananas and even a wedding dress. The raffle proves so popular that more prizes are added, including a flight in a training Spitfire.
Eventually, £12000 is raised though this and a second raffle, as well a donation by the Morans of £200, along with many others from wealthier people
Eventually, £14531 4s 2p is given to the RAF, almost enough for three spitfires. The RAF takes pittance on the efforts of Blackborough and the surrounding area, and three planes are brought by the city, two Spitfires and a Wellington bomber. The two spitfires, City of Blackborough, and Dubnus are assigned to 41st squadron in August 1942. Dubnus is heavily damaged three months later and dismantled for parts, but City of Blackborough is sent to a training squadron in early 1943, and by late 1944, is very worn out.
Two Invasion defence plans, codenamed Dublin and Belfast, are written. Belfast deals with an attack from the north, and Dublin deals with an attack from the south. Both have much in common; fall back to the Dubnus River, blow up the bridges, and ports, and stop the Germans crossing further upstream. As such, holes are drilled in bridges to allow for their easy destruction.
St Canute’s receives some emergency repair work. As a listed building, more care is taken, and four iron beams help support the roof. An Architect begins working on plans to rebuild the spire, but with modern techniques, allowing it to be made stronger and a third taller. However, these plans must wait until after the war. Not everyone agrees with these plans; the Bishop argues it should be rebuilt in the orginal way.
A naval mine is washed to shore and detonates near Redhall Bridge, killing three people.
Some of the local brothels are closed down, after a rise in the number of venereal diseases in local airman. This spells the beginning of the end for the red light distinct.
Several nissen huts are assembled at the docks.
The traction engine factory sees a boost in the number of repairs it is carrying out, as many elderly steam tractor engines see more use. The company also begins producing a diesel tractor, using diesel engines imported from the US. Most the farmers “lucky” enough to receive it consider it completely awful. The Managing director isn’t concerned; the government wil buy the tractors provided they work.
A forestry camp is set up near the Oil refinery. Many ancient trees are cut down to be used as wood to reduce the amount brought across the Atlantic.
The polytechnic sets up some Nissen huts at the dog racing track. One clever academic produces some small squares of note paper which can be stuck to paper, for adding comments to work.
Meanwhile, the murders continue, with the Blackout butcher murdering a drunk airman, a young housewife, and another Warden.
However, in November, an ARP warden is attacked with a knife. The man escapes, and using a vague description and fingerprints from the knife which was dropped at the scene, the murderer turns out to be James Morlock, a young man who was not conscripted due to mental health problems. Morlock is sent to Blackborough prison, until his trial can be held at the old bailey.
Abbeywood tower is formally requisitioned as a look out post. Local Hotels are also requisitioned, to station American troops.
Most of the University of Blackborough, working out of Hollowstone Castle, is ordered by the government to move out to New Moran House, volunteered by the Moran family, where they will stay for the rest of the war. They are only told that the castle is being used “for the war”. Certain talented individuals from the maths and electronics engineering departments stay, the rest of the accommodations held by newcomers from electronics development teams in Northwood House, top students from similar departments from other universities like Manchester Municipal College, Royal Navy representatives from Rothray, and a few figures from Bletchley Park and the Post Office Research Station. The castle was to hold research and development programs for general purpose computers, both to aid the codebreakers and decrypting German messages and to improve ballistics calculations for Royal Navy ships. Its function as a castle was to minimise potential for security leaks. Notable among the new staff was Tommy Flowers, leading the team that completed the first computer in Hollowstone, and the first, arguably, on Earth. Though known by the team itself as ‘Colossus’, official documents referred to the machine as ‘Hollowstone Mk. 1’.
The owner of the bombed-out King’s Park Cinema is able to convince the city council that the moral boosting service of the cinema is worth the funds to get it back into business in some form. Acquiring large sheets of cloth to use as canopies, partly thanks to the owners connections to the black market that has sprung up in wartime, an outdoor cinema is improvised in the original King’s Park to the west. For obvious reasons, the project finds the most success in the summer, but overall the revenue is enough to keep the business afloat for the war, and he has an idea to make a summer running of an outdoor venue an annual event after the war.
The Blackborough Rocketry Club used to form part of a design team to work on improving the munitions made at the converted stove factory.
As work on repairing bomb damage to factories is completed, and no German raids have come to produce further damage, it’s decided to clear some of the rubble in residential areas. Those areas will be rebuilt properly after the war, but for now serve as areas for Nissen huts.
Arsenal Park is converted into allotments. Much to the relief of the Earl, the grounds of Northwood House is untouched because of its military function demanding tight security.
Black marketers in Brewery Court pick through the wreckage of Blackborough Brewery, aware that the site is to be clear for eventual rebuilding post-war. They discover an undisturbed stock of Blackborough Brown Ale. The jubilant scavengers attempt to wheel the kegs out of town for selling at night, but not before a few long pined-for drinks. In their inebriation, control of the wagon is lost and crashes into an army jeep in front of the local police station, spilling the ale across the road, where the stench hangs for days.
In Redhall some of the abandoned theatres are reopened after the worst of the German bomber threat is judged gone.
Cases of soldiers catching sexual diseases go down, which most of authorities pin down as a result of closing the brothels. However, a keen eye might see certain changes to business practices clamping down on customer-employee contact and ‘information posters’ dispensing a certain kind of information urging servicemen to ‘stay safe’. Church groups plead with the council to look further into the district, but the Bishop takes moves to mute these voices.
As the war drags on longer than the war that came before it, a vein of Paganism, fuelled by eccentricity, desperation, and a half-hearted allocation of resources to local police services, returns to Redhall, in the form of a Neodruidic cult hosting weekly ‘ceremonies’ at Crescent Hill, attempting to resurrect the mythological King Arthur to once again defend Britain. Although overstretched police are focused on more lethal crime and the enforcement of wartime law, the Bishop insists the issue is dealt with, and the cult members are sent to join the as-of-now relocated population of the Imbecile Colony.
Most sports teams have suffered from players getting the draft, and the Blackborough Dreadnoughts Rugby Club are no exception. Previously only recruiting white players, it’s decided that the club will start recruiting from the city’s Chinatown district. This inclusion is shown in the propaganda film Us and Them, produced by Orientem to face Britain’s history of intolerance and to contrast modern Britain with the Nazis.
For 50 years, a statue has stood at the centre of the fish market, depicting Britannia surrounded by racial caricatures of her overseas subjects. While there had always been controversy around “Britannia Above All”, even in the era of Victorian arrogance, opposition has spiked since the start of the war and the condemning of the Nazis for racial bigotry. After receiving information that some African-American units of the US Army will be temporarily posted in Blackborough, and the launching into the public eye of Blackborough’s Chinatown with the Rugby team, it’s decided to move the statue into storage at the museum.
Alice and Arnold Moran, nearly 30 years after the death of their father and her inheritance of the company, meet again. Shunned from Britain for his pacifism during the Great War, Arnold had went to France with his (reduced) share of the inheritance and set up an automotive plant in Lyon, eventually making his way to becoming something of a socialite, becoming friends with many figures in French heavy industry. Though his ideals and age made him unable to fight, these connections through France helped make him an asset to SOE, aiding in sabotage of French industry being used to service Germany. A daring operation, involving Arnold, to escape France with the gold bullion of a French bank (earning him the nickname ‘Black Prince Arnie’ to the few aware of the mission) gives him the chance to return to England for at least a while. Though Alice is unaware of the specifics of his time in France, they are both relived to see each other in good health. Though Moran Co. has done well under Alice’s leadership, she admits that rough times may be ahead once the war is over, and talk between the two drifts towards how they may help put the world back together once the dust had settled…
The citizens of Blackborough are at first relieved that the Blackout Butcher has been put away, but a few months into the new year, a string of disappearances of ARP Wardens around Merdin arise suspicion that the Butcher is running amuck, or at least someone is playing copycat to Morlock. 7 ARP members, 3 male and 4 female, disappear over the next four months. Ethel May Parker, Britain’s oldest woman as of 2015, takes leave from the WRNS to walk through Henderson Wood. Smelling a foul stench towards Old Henderson House, she walked in to discover the stench was coming from the basement. From her extensive time as a nurse, she was familiar with the smell, and turned to exit the house. A man lunged out to attack her with a knife, but Parker was able to dodge the swipe and ran back out of the wood, but not before getting a good look at the man. She reported to the police, who quickly dispatched to investigate. Although the man was not to be found, police did discover in the basement what Parker suspected. 7 bodies at various stages of decomposition, all with their eyes gouged out and limbs and genitals brutalised. Parker did recognise the man, and confirmed his identity after a look through Royal Merdin Infirmary Records. Davis McKenny, a patient Parker tended to in the early ’30s, who suffered mental illness and was sent to RMI after an attempt at self-harm. She remembered him disturbing the other patients with his enthusiastic reactions to the then-recent election of Hitler. Police finally tracked him down to his home in Edmondsley, where they found him lying in his bed with a half-empty bottle of whiskey, with a knife stuck into his chest.
Jody Animations hire their first new artist since their official founding, a local elderly painter specialising in woodland areas outside the city, to paint backgrounds for cells. He is immediately put at work on their first major project as a proper subsidiary of Orientem, short-film adaptations of stories from the children’s literature series Winnie the Pooh. Although author A.A. Milne, now serving in the Home Guard, is antagonistic of his books being commercialised, he relents when convinced of its purpose to reassure the British public young and old and to provide escapism from the trauma of wartime life. Although having neither the music of Disney or the physical comedy of Warner Bros., critical reception to the shorts gentle themes, likable characters and nearly unparalleled background art is universal.
A member of the local Home Guard suffers a nervous breakdown while on patrol, proceeding to shoot at a local butchers owned by a family of immigrants with the unfortunate surname of ‘Bosch’. Luckily, the owner is able to trap the man in the meat locker before calling the authorities, and is (quietly) ‘honoured’ as the only man of German birth to capture Allied personnel on the soil of Great Britain.
The academic in the re-established polytechnic at the dog track, that had produced the small paper notes for adding to his work, had been taking note the utility of his own invention and was beginning to make plans for producing them commercially. His current method of attaching the notes to paper, simple paperclips, was proving bothersome, and he felt a better way to attach the notes would make it a truly viable and useful product. The break came in the form of a letter from his cousin working at Moran Adhesives, who had recently been admonished for wasting precious chemicals on accidentally creating a very weak glue that would lose adhesion with ease. Telling his cousin of his idea, the two meet up and spend a week working out how the glue may be refined for better reusability and how to apply it to the note. Due to war shortages, the only colour of paper available is yellow. Filing a patent on the product, named the ‘Stick-It Note’ (or ‘Doggy Note’ in reference to the dog track the polytechnic was now based at), the pair demonstrate their product to the management at Moran and to civil servants from the government, explaining how its inclusion in offices around Britain may lead to improvements in organisation.
The last foreign army to occupy Blackborough arrived in this year, as GIs from the United States arrived as part of the mass preparations for the invasion of Europe. With large salaries and swish uniforms, American troops provided much-welcome relief to the starved tourism industry of Abbeywood. Somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 local women would end up marrying a GI, enamoured by the Yank’s ability to treat a girl. But the presence of a culture most Britons only knew from Hollywood films would lead to tension and fistfights just as often as it would lead to fun and partying, in a boiling pot that both British and American Military Police would fight to keep a lid on. The most explosive subject was the presence of black GIs, their encounters with their white ‘brothers in arms’ leading to extremely sensitive standoffs. The people of Blackborough, however, were much more receptive and friendly towards black troops. Despite few inhabitants ever having seen a black man even in movies, most residents were only a hostile and disturbed by black soldiers as they were to their white counterparts, and businesses were open to blacks and whites equally. Unfortunately, some white Americans who were used to Jim Crow in the States didn’t wish to tolerate this, and the situation came to its apex in September as a group of white GIs attempted to lynch Private Henry Washington, whom they suspected had raped a local woman named Grace Mulberry. A section of British troops nearby, who had befriended Washington over his harmonica playing, intervened as they were dragging him through the back alleys of the pub they found him in. In the tight confines of the alley, a mass fight broke out between the American and British troops, lasting for ten straight minutes while MPs backed by local police broke up the fight, which resulted in two soldiers dead, and three soldiers and one MP injured. The incident received national attention in both America and Britain, with the policy of stationing black troops in Britain called into question. Washington was saved from a prison sentence by Grace Mulberry stepping forward and clarifying she had invited the soldier to her home for the night. Her testimony helped to sooth the debate at least temporarily and allowed both allies to continue the preparations for Overlord in relative peace. They were going to give their story during production of Us and Them, but pressure from the British government, eager to leave the issue alone, urged Orientem to cut the interview. Nonetheless, Henry, along with at least 200 other black troops who visited Blackborough, would stay in the city after the war with their new wives.
Unemployment in Sugar Park almost vanishes with almost all of the available workforce being sucked up by the Chocolate-converted-to-tank factory and the NorthMed Plant. The stagnant slum, a island of poverty since the Great Depression, begins to enjoy workforce training and the flowing of wages into households for the first time in its history, even if the chafe of the wartime economy is still there.
At the castle, the Hollowstone Electronics Research Team (“HERT”) refine and improve the original Colossus design to create the Hollowstone Mk. 2. Five times faster than the Mk. 1, the Hollowstone Mk. 2 is capable of more general-purpose operations and benefits from the input of Alan Turing. Twelve Hollowstones are produced, most of which are shipped to Bletchley Park and used to decrypt radiotelegraphy messages by German High Command in the lead-up to D-Day, obtaining precious intelligence for the invasion.
Tommy Flowers imagines the non-military uses the Hollowstone Mk. 2 might be put to and fears that the wonder he has created will end up locked away in some government warehouse after the war. In violation of the project’s strict code of secrecy, he makes copies of the Hollowstone’s blueprints and hides them under a loose floorboard at his home.
Cinema-owner George Kibel’s outdoor film screenings receive a boost when Orientem Studios agree to hold the premier of their latest film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, at the King’s Park Festival in the summer of 1944 with all proceeds from the event going to The Seaman’s Fund.
In early October 1944 twenty V-1 rockets are air-launched at Blackborough. Most of the “Doodlebugs” fall short of their targets but several hit housing terraces in Merdin and a half a dozen land in Blackborough proper killing eighteen people and destroying the swimming baths.
One of the Doodlebugs fails to detonate and is given over to the Rocketry Club team for study.
More allotments are created close to Blackborough Prison.
By the end of the year most of the river defences have been abandoned and the barrage balloons removed. The threat of invasion has passed, and the threat of air-raids is receding.
Ruined buildings in the Old Town are cleared.
An Albino baby rhino is born at Blackborough Zoo and named “Winny” in an affectionate nod to the primeminister.
A new electrical substation is constructed to serve the war industries of Blackborough Industrial Park.
Harry Kemp, Redhall F.C’s star player, is cut down on the beaches of Normandy, along with hundreds of other young men from Blackborough.
The witchcraft charges against the members of the Neodruidic cult are dropped and most of the cultists are released a few months later following psychiatric evaluations.
Basil Spence, the architect commissioned to repair St Canute’s Cathederal, releases the final draft of his plan. The ambitious modernist project includes a glass spire, 30% taller the original, which will appear to emerge out of the ancient stones, as well as a new statue of St Canute to be erected outside the cathedral.
The modernist plan for a glass spire offends some traditionalists, however amongst the Labour dominated local city council there is an appetite for fresh modernist styles, and when the Church of England dismisses the Bishop’s concerns and approves the design the deal is sealed. Now they just have to wait for the war to be over and work can begin.
Alice and Arnold Moran remain in close contact despite their differences and in late 1944 Arnold puts a proposal to his sister. “Black Prince Arnie” suggests to Alice that she put up funding for an international prize in the family’s name, to be awarded annually to the person or organisation that has done the most to bring about world peace.
In August 1944, an explosion at one of the underground armaments stores beneath East Moor causes a huge collapse.
Moran Chemical Laboratories patents a new fluorinated plastic, polytetrafluoroethylene. The non-reactive, heat-resistant lubricant soon proves to have many applications, including coating valves and seals in pipes holding uranium hexafluoride as part of a mysterious US military uranium enrichment programme called the “Manhattan Project”.
“Tetron”, as it would come to be called, is now best known as a non-stick coating for frying pans, but it also played an invaluable role in the uranium-enriching process at Oak Ridge Tennessee that helped to create the atom bomb.
In Merdin one of the released cultists, a middle-aged former civil servant named Gerald Gardner, remains in Redhall and begins secretly gathering new followers.
Gardner believes that he is reviving an ancient British tradition of witch-craft and claims to have witnessed surviving pre-Christian covens in the forests using magic to ward off Nazi invasion. To help revive this “ancient” magic Gardner plans to purchase the Old Henderson House and turn it into a Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, although for now fear of being arrested again under the Witchcraft Act presents him from doing so.
Ethel May Parker suffers a mental breakdown following her encounter with the Blackout Butcher and the loss of her eldest son fighting in France. Parker becomes an in-patient at the Crane Memorial Hospital for twelve weeks before being released home.
Her experiences both as a nurse and as a patient lead Parker to reflect on current approaches to mental health treatment and at the age of 44 she begins thinking about retraining as a psychiatrist.
Written and directed by Powell and Pressburger and based on the cartoon strip by David Low, Orientem’s latest feature film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp causes something of a stir when shown at King’s Park. Despite being solidly pro-british he film’s positive portrayal of a First World War German Army Officer causes some controversy, however the incredible vivid use of technicolour makes it a hit with the public.
“Dear old Clive, this is not a gentleman’s war. This time you’re fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain… Nazism. And if you lose, there won’t be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years.”
Colonel Blimp was a controversial film at the time for a number of reasons. Some believed the blustering British title character was a satire of Churchill, whilst others objected to the depiction of Blimp’s life-long friend, a noble and honourable German army officer.
Following the release of Colonel Blimp, Powell and Pressburger begin work on what will be their final film with Orientem: A Matter of Life and Death, scheduled for release in 1946.
Meanwhile, the US Army releases its own movie filmed in Blackborough. A Welcome to Britain is a forty-minute information film for GIs shot in and around the city and provides an introduction to life in Britain.
A Welcome to Britain features Burgess Meredith and Bob Hope explaining British customs such as warm beer, thrupenny bits, driving on the wrong side of the road, kilts, pub games, racial intermixing and English train timetables for the benefit of US soldiers stationed in Britain in the lead-up to D-Day.
The Hawker aircraft manufacturing plant is expanded.
Royal Steel begin production on a second mill in Hillcrow.
In Edmondsley a trial of several thousand Doggy Notes are produced and gifted to the Naval Office at Rothray.
The Navy report that the little adhesive yellow notes prove useful, and a large order is placed with the Stick-It Company, utilising the facilities at Moran Adhesives.
Temporary structures are erected at the polytechnic and the academics leave the dog-track and relocate back the grounds of Northumbria Polytechnic.
Most of the decoy-arsenal is demolished.
The Moran Company agrees to fund the permanent rebuilding of the Polytechnic after the war, in exchange for certain proprietary rights.
In Abbeywood an American-style jazz club opens on the sea-front near the old pier. The Blue Kiss mainly caters to Gis but soon begins to develop a local audience.
Many of the coastal defences are abandoned as the possibility of invasion diminishes.
Local business owners begin petitioning the government to be allowed to re-open the New Albert Pier
Rothray Naval Base buzzes with activity as planning is carried out for Operation Overlord.
A specialist unit of Frogmen trained at Rothray carry out reconnaissance of the beaches of Normandy.
Economically depressed almost since its founding, Sugar Park is riding high for the first time in its history.
NorthMed begins mass-production of orthopaedic, prosthetic and medocal equipment for the wounded.
The movement of workers to the area leads to expansion of housing, despite the war-time limits on construction.
The new year begins with the removal of most of the city’s remaining defences, as resources are redirected to the final push against Germany.
Naval patrols are stepped down, pillboxes destroyed or abandoned and the remaining barrage balloons pulled to earth.
Soon after the Blackborough Hoard is returned to the Northumbrian Museum.
In April the city’s Dorwinby Hussars Regiment liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The suffering witnessed at the camp shocks the men of Blackborough to their core.
Two weeks after the liberation of Belsen, Blackborough is gripped by relief at the news that Hitler is dead, and eight days after that the city rejoices as Germany surrenders and victory in Europe is declared.
Street parties and bonfires break out across the city as people are overjoyed after six years of grief, bombs and shortages. Thousands of Blackborians are dead and the city has been forever marked by the bitter war, but people are determined to have one hell of a party before they begin the task of rebuilding their city. Workers are given the day off and the entire city is decked out in red, white and blue.
The women’s rowing teams from the University of Blackborough and Northumbria Polytechnic celebrate by staging an impromptu regatta on the St Dubnus river. In the spirit of camaraderie the team from the University of Blackborough lend their rivals a spare boat as much of the Northumbrian team’s equipment was destroyed when their university was bombed.
In the months that follow the men of Blackborough return from fighting overseas and the city is the scene of many happy reunions leading to a boom in the birth rate, but of course thousands of men do not return home and many families are left irrevocably broken.
As the men return to Blackborough, the first General Election in a decade is held, giving the Labour party an almost clean sweep of the city:
Blackborough Central: MP George Kibel (Labour hold)
Blackborough North: MP Samuel Spencer (Labour hold)
Redhall: MP Sir Arthur Lewell-Glindon (Conservative hold)
Abbeywood: MP Gerard Kingston (Labour gain from Conservatives)
Wildfield & Hillcrow: MP Andrew Turner (Labour hold)
West Merdin: MP Brendan McCoy (Labour hold)
East Merdin & Edmondsley: MP Stephen Hendry (Labour hold)
Frogmore: MP Donald Tudor (Labour gain from Liberals)
Eastmoreland: MP Mary Cambell (Labour hold)
Following the landslide Labour victory 1945 election the city is left with only one remaining Conservative MP.
With the celebration of VJ day, a new government, and the return of thousands of soldiers, sailors and seamen to the city, the work of rebuilding Blackborough begins.
The remaining defences are abandoned, and most of them torn down whilst a few continue to sit empty.
By the end of 1945 most of the entertainment venues in the city are back up and running.
In the Ropewalk/Northbridge area construction begins on a major new housing estate to provide council houses for those left homeless by air raid, completing in late 1946.
Nearby warehouses are expanded.
The Ropewalk Arcade is also rebuilt, with shops and boutiques moving back into the suspended arcade.
However, many of the poorer homes around Ropewalk remains in ruins, as the withdrawal of Lend Lease hurts the British economy and stymies post-war reconstruction. This leads to an increasing tendency towards gentrification in the Ropewalk area as the wealthier parts are rebuilt more quickly.
In the Old Town efforts are made at street-widening and some of the tiny old homes have their dividing walls knocked through to create larger premises for the shops and restaurants which increasingly dominate the city’s ancient heart.
Following sale of the land construction begins on a new hotel and apartment complex on the site of the former King’s Park Cinema.
Meanwhile the King’s Park Festival enters its third year with the première of A Matter of Life and Death, and the festival organiser George Kibel is made rich by the sale of the land his cinema formerly stood on. Kibel uses his increasing fortune and reputation to go into politics.
Construction begins on a new tower block in the Sheepsgrave area.
The ruins of the Blackborough municipal baths are cleared, and in 1946 buyer’s begin bidding for the prime real estate the baths sat on to develop the site.
At the end of the war the military clear out of Northwood House, however the Earl of Blackborough has become quite comfortable at his penthouse in New York, and his Blackborough estate sits largely empty.
As Hollowstone Electronics Research Team leader Tommy Flowers feared, the government fails to see the huge value of the Colossus Computer Machine now that the war is over. However Tommy Flowers has kept many of the plans and the blue prints for the Colossus and assembles a small team at the University of Blackborough to investigate the possibility of developing a computing machine for civilian use.
The remains of the bombed out Blackborough Brewery are torn down as production relocates to a larger, more modern newly-constructed brewery up-river in Hillcrow. On the site of the old bombed out brewery the Blackborough Brown Ale Company begin construction of a new corporate headquarters.
In 1946 new semi-detached council houses are built just east of Blackborough Prison.
By the end of 1946 Blackborough is a city still bearing the scars of war, but the process of rebuilding is gathering pace.
In Redhallhe military defences around Bishop’s dock are dismantled or repurposed as storage sheds.
Redhall’s theatrical heart begins to beat once more as the Stagecoach Theatre and Blackborough National Theatre re-open.
Work begins on repairing the cathederal, with most of the damage fixed by the end of 1946 and work started on Basil Spence’s ambitious designs for the new cathederal spire.
The final design for the renovated cathederal includes an unusual irregular central courtyard marking where the roof was destroyed surrounding a freestanding spire of glass and steel.
The ruined warehouse next to Nightingale Bridge is used as a playground by boys from the local school as it awaits demolition.
In 1946 the first annual Moran Peace Award is given in a ceremony at New Moran House. The award goes to the Norwegian Trygve Lie for his work as the first General-Secretary of the new “United Nations”.
U.N General Secretary Trygve Lie receiving the Moran Peace Award from Arnold Moran.
Nearby houses damaged by the the East Moor underground explosion are repaired. The underground facility itself is sealed up, and the crater from the explosion begins to fill with water creating a lake that serves as the memorial to those who lost their lives.
Rebuilding begins at the grand old George Street Library. For now it’s rare medieval volumes remain on loan to the British Museum.
By the end of 1946 the bombed Frogmore Rail Station has almost been repaired with housing developments built in the surrounding area.
The Nissen Huts are dismantled and modern prefabricated houses erected in their place.
The ruins of the nearby church remain as a monument amongst the new developments.
The Moran Company opens a mass-production plant for their new “Tetron” non-stick plastic on the outskirts of town west of East Moor Park.
Northumbrian Steel is purchased by the U.S Commercial Metals Company.
In 1945 German POWs stage a mass break-out from the Merdin internment camp. In one of the largest escapes of the war sixty-five German soldiers break out under the fence and flee into the woods. Almost all of the escapees are quickly recaptured and repatriated at the end of the war but by the end of 1946 one German POW remains unaccounted for.
The camp itself sits empty, the pre-war “imbecile” residents having moved on to other facilities during the war.
Bomb-damaged and sub-standard homes are pulled down to make way for new developments.
A river-side apartment block is built on the site of the damaged brewery.
Following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act Gerald Gardner purchases the Old Henderson House and surrounding worthless land from the rail company, converting the tiny 17th century cottage into a Museum of Magic and Witchcraft. Several members of Gardner’s Wiccan coven wish to live close to the museum and set up a make-shift camp and accommodation huts in the surrounding Henderson Wood..
Powell and Pressburger make their last film with Orientem, A Matter of Life and Death starring David Niven.
Jody animation studios rent out the neighbouring property and begin work on a feature-length animated version of King Arthur.
The farms of Wildfield are cleared for housing developments.
Prefabricated houses are erected along the river and around the aerodrome.
Randall Precision Instruments is purchased by Northmed after the war and converts from making bomb and gunsights to making spectacle lenses.
Royal Steel’s second mill in Hillcrow is completed.
New homes are built along the road leading into the city centre and roads widened.
Housing is expanded in the area around the transporter bridge to accommodate those made homeless during the war.
The Stick-It company begin developing their own production facility in Edmondsley
Several damaged buildings on the campus of Northumbria Polytechnic are demolished to make way for new buildings funded by the Moran Company.
Following the closure of the Abbeywood pit the Edmondsley mine becomes the last remaining mine within the city limits. Although the city of Blackborough remains home to many miners who commute out to sites outside the city.
Prefabricated homes and an apartment building are built in the area of the dog track and a new bridge erected.
As the war ends, the lights of the sea front come on for the first time in six years.
The hotels, lido and Abbeywood Tower re-open and by the end of 1946 most of the coastal defences have been stripped away.
The New Albert Pier re-open and businesses slowly begin to return.
The mine near Abbeywood closes.
The Blue Kiss soon develops a reputation as the focus for jazz in the north of England.
New low cost home are built in North Abbeywood.
The garrison at Rothray is reduced following the end of hostilities.
Fundraising begins for a memorial to fallen seamen at Rothray.
At the end of the war NorthMed transitions from manufacturing emergency medical kits to producing mobility aids, prosthesis, and orthopaedic equipment.
With a city-wide shortage in housing new developments are built in the area dramatically increasing the population of Sugar Park.
With the city recovering from the destruction and loss of the Second World War the residents of Blackborough begin to look towards the future.