The British Resistance
During WWII, Winston Churchill initiated the British Resistance Organization, or Auxiliary Units, as preparation for the expected invasion of the British Isles by Nazi Germany. In Owen Sheers's alternative history, the Nazis succeed, and the insurgents mobilize at once. A highly secretive organization, the resistance primarily employed farmers and countrymen with an intimate knowledge of their locality who would be able to live off the land, isolated from a larger military force, staying behind to fight after occupation. While many were drawn from the Home Guard (local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, usually due to age) and operated under their guise, others were sworn to absolute secrecy, even from their wives and families. Thousands of men trained clandestinely on weekends in guerilla warfare, sabotage and spying, and were given caches of arms, hidden in underground bunkers in the hills. The Resistance Organization was comprised of three groups: the Fighting Patrols to carry out acts of sabotage, the Special Duties to gather intelligence, and the Royal Corps of Signals to maintain underground radio communication.
Owen Sheers first heard of the British Resistance while he was working for a builder in the Llanthony valley, in the Black Mountains that border Wales. Years later, he saw a television interview with George Vater, a former member of the resistance, and Sheers realized he had grown up with Vater's grandchildren in the little village of Llanddewi Rhydderch in Wales. At the end of the interview, Vater remembers that his unit was told "perhaps we would work for fourteen days, and that was our full lifetime, I presume." Haunted by that final statement, Sheers met with Vater and he revealed much of the background and details that would inspire and shape Resistance.
This article was originally published in March 2008, and has been updated for the
February 2009 paperback release.
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