Thursday, 14 October 2010

How Green Was My Drop Zone

Or The Winter of 79 in Wales

Historically the result of the 1979 Devolution referendum was a blow to the cause of any kind of devolved governance in Wales but shadowy activists such as Meibion Glyndwr showed that some people were taking up part of the mantle of Free Wales Army and MAC.

So much for reality.

In Winter of '79 terms, the realisation of the policies and agenda of the Conservative Government meant that Tories disapeared from the political landscape; MPs retreated to London, councillors resigned out of shame, fear and in some cases were strong armed off in local council coups. Cardiff and Newport went Labour but declared themselves open cities while the mining communities of the Valleys joined with the Neath-Port Talbot-Swansea-Llanelli areas in a loose hard left alliance. A combination of militancy, terrain, acess to mining explosives, armed local TA members and presence of a number of Spanish Civil War veterans as radical leaders rapidly turned the Rhonddas into No Go Areas for Govt Forces.

In the hilly, wooded, sometimes misty, frustratingly named and twisty roaded, countryside, the Liberals and the Nationalists shared influence with many farmers and landowners forming local patrols to keep outsiders out.

The Army is already pulling troops east into England and the remaining forces are ordered to adopt "Ulster Rules" and bemused locals see armoured watch towers appear as the Army forts up in it's bases. With the M4 zone effectively closed at Swansea, the MSR runs from Hereford to Dering Lines at Brecon and then along the A40 to SENTA; from there it runs only as far as land rover based patrols can escort lorries down towards Carmarthen. Penally and Castlemartin are supplied by the Navy or helicopter lifts. The Army, dug into bases has no real idea as to the mood of the locals and refer to the country in general as "Indian Country" and the rumoured armed Nationalists as the "Viet Taff".

Does an armed Nationalist movement exist? Is there a threat of weapons and ASU's filtering in from Ireland through the now porous and long Anglo-Welsh border? Many senior officers in London now realise why Edward I made sure of Wales before moving on Scotland. There are reports of helicopters flying into Mid Wales from Hereford and lost sheep are blamed on long haired men with fearsome moustaches and carrying
M16s spotted at dusk or dawn. But are they the SAS or Yr Rhyfelwyr, The 1st March Brigade or any one of many alleged armed groups?

As an anomymous 2 Para Officer said to Max Hastings at a rainsoaked LZ in the Mynydd Eppynt, "Out there, Max, is the entire 2nd Welsh Nationalist Division. We only have to find him."

The next day the entire TA stock of kit at Carmathen was reported as "Lost on manouvres" along with most of the TA troop.



  1. Viet Taff!! Haha, brilliant, as to SENTA - they're welcome to the cold, wet hell-hole...

    We had a cottage in Lower Chapel on the back road to the ranges and I well remember the Vulcans coming over the house at about 600 feet (seemed like 50!) and rattling everything in the kitchen and bathroom! Given what happened in the Falklands, a couple of them might help with the Carmathen turncoats!!

  2. I remember the Beacons in '79, arriving by night, day was no better, fogged up to our SLR's flash suppressors in mist!

  3. Despite all the negative commentary, it sounds like beautiful country.

  4. Oh! Don't mind me Eli, it is a truly beautiful place, the beaches of the south and west, the Beacons with their long winding single track roads leading north where you get the craggy mountain passes up to the old ruined slate-mines around Builth Wells, Capel Curig (regularly either the warmest place in the UK or the wettest!!) and Portmadog (pronounced PorthMaddock not the port of mad dogs!) where I bought an ex-Soviet army t-shirt once, with a darned hole slightly stained which to this day I believe was taken from the body of an Afghanistan casualty?

    Canals, steam railways - several, brilliant place for a holiday...a mini New Zealand!...

    ...and with two Severn Bridges, easy to escape!! [winkani]

  5. I think Maverick has said it all, except to mention the castles - more per square mile than anywhere else in europe, I was told once. And of course, if Wales was flat, it would be much bigger than England.