The Last War: Great Britain
Never truly a part of the Continental cultures, London held itself aloof during the formation of the Federation. It remained independent, an ally of the Combine, on the doorstep to Europe. The North American Combine valued this friendship, and in return invested heavily in the British Isles.
It was a good time for London, its own beleaguered economy turned around by Combine trade. Factories from Manchester to Newcastle roared back to life, feeding unquenchable North American demand in exchange for forward military bases. Heavy tanks and swift GEVs purchased from the Combine soon formed the core of a revitalized British military.
The turning point occurred in 2068. On the site of a forgotten air base, the North American Combine built the first and only British Ogre plant. At the time, the Sheffield Production Facility was the largest and most technologically advanced manufacturing complex in all Europe. The vehicle bays towered over the surrounding countryside, the gray concrete vaults stretching half the length of the city.
Paneurope demanded the immediate dismantling of the Sheffield facility. The Combine ignored both the demand and the rhetoric. Tensions between the two superpowers rose; torchlight demonstrations in Berlin, Moscow and Paris were answered only by an increase in Ogre production. In the spring of 2069, the Federation put steel behind their words, and blockaded the British Isles. The Combine ran the blockade, bloodlessly at first – until a Combine frigate met a Paneuropean submarine, both vanishing in a very short, very lonely North Sea firefight. This began the Last War, the war that ended the empires.
Britain immediately became what Paneurope had feared most: a powerful advance base. A premature assault on France failed expensively, but drew attention away from Siberia, which quickly fell to Ogre assault via Alaska. The United Kingdom became the focus of Paneuropean operations. Even without the Sheffield factory, it would have been a thorn in Europe's side. As a continuing source of Ogres, it was intolerable. Paneurope's first attempt to capture Britain came in 2074 and failed bloodily. The second invasion, in 2076, was an even worse disaster, and cost Paneurope its naval parity.
But in 2079, the Combine lost its British base. Paneuropean guile succeeded where brute force had failed. Exploiting British dissatisfaction with Combine domination, agents fomented a series of strikes, sabotage actions and mini-revolts. Carefully-inserted special ops teams, aided by moles within the British services, engineered a wave of kidnappings, assassinations and computer intrusions. The United Kingdom was conquered from within, falling in but a few days.
Britain under the Paneuropean Federation was a very different place. From the Shetlands to Plymouth it was a rigidly controlled police state: curfews, identification papers and travel passes became a fact of British life. In Catholic Ireland the situation was only slightly better, the Emerald Isle coming under the Vatican's close scrutiny. The new government was a member of the Paneuropean Council, but at home, terrorism and sabotage struck against the occupation, sometimes reaching to the continent itself.
The takeover was so bloodless that much of the British military was not involved until it was too late to do any good. Surviving units fled when they could, scattering across the globe. Some went to North America, and were quickly integrated into the Combine military machine. Most, however, found refuge in Australia. Maintaining their independence, they created a government in exile, including the young English Queen. Who one day, they swore, would return to Windsor Castle.
The most far-reaching effect of the fall of Britain, though, was the capture of the Sheffield plant. Again, the attackers had inside help, and the production facility was taken almost intact. Ogre technology was studied, copied and reproduced, and Paneuropean Ogres began appearing, not just in Sheffield, but in Gotha and Stuttgart.
One of the many public notices issued by the new British government in an effort
to bring the population "up to speed" with their legal rights under Occupation.
". . . such notices were commonly displayed on comscreens, e-mail and old-fashioned posters. Everyone was expected to know The Law. Ignorance is not considered a defence . . ."
– eTime Magazine article "Under the Heel", October 24, 2079