A blog about Victorian miniatures, some historical and some definately not!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Invasion Literature

The Stories
For a few years I have been interested in Invasion Literature. This is a little known genre of late 19th and early 20th century comprising of books, articles and pamphlets focusing on 'what if' scenarios. The wikipedia articles gives a reasonable summary here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_literature .
Anyone interested in the genre should seek out the works of I F Clarke , a British professor. Although scholarly works they are very readable. Here is the first one I obtained

From the title you can see this is a overall commentry fom 1763 till modern times. The most scholarly of the works and probably the least of specific interest of the three books by Clarke , but has got some interesting period pictures such as
The appendices contain some useful lists of works and a chronological list of imaginary wars.

The Tale of the Next Great War 1871-1914 contains 15 stories including the Battle of Dorking, about which later.

It also ,like the next volume, has plenty of interesting illustrations

The Great War with Germany,1890-1914 contains 37 extracts from German and British stories with a commentry from the editor

Although the largest group of stories are about a conflict with Germany , caused by insecurity of Victorian Britain and the future of the Empire particularly after the Prussian victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 -1871 and the arming of the German nation leading up to 1914 , many other enemies feature in the stories including Russia ,France , Anarchists and even Martians. It was not just a British movement either, various other countries had articles published about invasions including the USA being devasted by a British invasion due to a falling out over fishing rights with the Canadiens (The Stricken Nation by Hugh Donnelly- reprinted in The Tale of the Next Great War) , Im pretty sure this was a actual grievance which fortunately never came to conflict.

Michale Moorcock edited two collections of stories which were published in paperback in the 1970s.

Some of the stories are also in Clarkes works but still worth getting hold of. If anyone would like to know which stories are in which volumes I would be happy to tell them , or I may even list them on this blog at a future date.
I managed to win off ebay a couple of the works by William le Queux , an interesting character to say the least  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Le_Queux , he was very prolific here is another list of his works
The Great War in England 1897 was published in 1895 and details the invasion of Great Britain by German and Russian allied forces. Its pretty dour to be honest and seems to ignore the strength of the Royal Navy at the time by coming up with a excuse for the fleet being away. The country is eventually rescued by Empire troops coming to rescue the Mother Country , Bengal Lancers in Sussex anybody?

I also have a short non fiction book by him Hushed Up at German Headquarters subtitled Amazing Confessions of Col. Lieut. Otto von Heynitz 16th Uhlans , Principle Aide De Camp to His Imperial Highness the German Crown Prince, I have not read it yet but it seems to be a piece of propaganda more than anything, I suppose most invasion literature was in one way or another.

A variety of authors of varying ability wrote stories classified as invasion literature. In the collections listed we have AA Milne of Winnie the Pooh fame, P G Wodehouse and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all of whom wrote short stories.Perhaps the most famous piece of invasion literature is War of the Worlds by H G Wells , although slightly different in that it deals with a extra terrestial menace it was a thinly veiled warning of future wars as was some of his other works such as The War in the Air and Land Ironclads. Another famous piece of Invasion Literature is The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers which was also made into a film , dealing with the build up of German seapower prior to WW1
The other notable authors include Albert Robida and George Griffith.

Of course most of the stories are out of print and many were only published in magazines of the time, however by searching on ebay and book websites such as ABE some publications can be found. Probably more practical is finding them online as they are out of copyright like this site http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Imaginary%20wars%20and%20battles%22

This looks like an excellent choice to get quite a a few of the stories at a reasonable cost, I have not ordered it myself yet as I already have some of the works and my reading queue is pretty large but I may well order it soon. http://www.ozebook.com/ozebook/invasionlit.htm

The Battle of Dorking by George Chesney
This was the publication that started the flood of invasion literature in the late 19th century and also kick started my interest in genre. Living at the foot of Surrey Hills I was intrigued when I heard of this, I live about 15 miles away from Dorking (and actually equidistant to Horsell Common Woking ,the site of the first battle in War of the Worlds). Its written quite well compared to some of the other works and I have read it several times. It caused quite a stir when originally published in Blackwoods Magazine in 1871 was reprinted as a book many times and led to vigrous debate across the nation.Apart from the online versions and in Clarkes Tale of the Next great war and Moorcocks Before Armageddon listed above it can be bought from Amazon.
Here is the original cover from the book.

An article about invasion literature and The Battle of Dorking by Professor Clarke can be found here

There is a hex and card wargame based on this book available at  http://www.wargamevault.com/index.php?filters=0_0_0&manufacturers_id=2773 which I have bought with its supplement Last Stand at Surbiton 1871 http://www.myspace.com/drakengames , although not played it as yet I hope to one day....

Gaming Invasion Literature
There are plenty of opportunities to game this genre in a variety of scales and formats. Many of the tales are based on visions of futuristic war with the development of weapons and vehicles some of which came to pass, particularly in the air and on and below the sea, other stories use the forces available at the time but in a unfamiliar setting. Both types I consider to be in the VSF stable.
The Battle of Dorking falls into the latter category, Prussian forces will be available in any of the ranges available for the Franco Prussian war , British forces in 28mm can be obtained from Ironclad Miniatures and Redoubt who do home service uniforms , I have both as well as discontinued lines from Wessex Games and a large amount of Cavalry fromn the old HLBS line, unfortunately I have not got any HLBS infantry and Im kicking myself I did not get them when they were available even though they are not of the same quality as Ironclad. In 18mm Black Hat miniatures produce a very nice range of British and Prussian in there Martian Empires section  , although I have some of the Martian expedition forces I have not yet purchased any home service uniformed chaps , Im toying with the idea of ordering some before the Salute show as a price increase is coming. In smaller scales you can use colonial forces and just paint the helmets black for the British or pretend the experiment to use white helmets for home service uniforms that actually happened in the 1890s got approved. For the later part of the period you can use WW1 figures. Warrior miniatures produce a range called England Invaded including a  ruleset which is very much influenced by invasion literature. In smaller scales aerial and naval warfare is well served by lines such as Aeronef from Brigade Models or the dreadnought ranges produced by so many.
Of course it need not just be German opponents or indeed even set in Great Britain , you can let your imagination run wild and introduce as much VSF as you wish.The thought of Bengal Lancers and Ghurkas standing shoulder to shoulder with Grenadier Guards in there bearskin helmets and the household cavalry in full ceremonial uniform fighting the allied forces of Russian cossacks and Prussian infantry across the fields and villages of Surrey and Sussex is irrestible.

The spur to post this on my blog came from a after action report by Luddite on LAF here  http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=27115.0.
Invasion literature has been discussed a few other times in the past too http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=7990.0 and

The VSF chaps ran a interesting campaign based on the Invassion of Great Britain on the forum too , here is an example of one of the battle reports http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=6220.0

Till next time...Cheers


  1. Excellent informative stuff... we need more blogs like this!

  2. A fascinating review, even for one not more attracted by 'imaginative' campaign settings in general than specially by the Victorian period!
    I'm intrigued by the lower illustration on the cover of I F Clarke's first book: I'm almost sure the upper 'flying torpedo boat' is from Robida, but the 'tortoise' steam (?) tank below is very intriguing, with its 'Munchausen reads Da Vinci' look? Almost an armed and armoured development of Cugnot's fardier, that could fit well in a 'Lacepunk' (steampunk by Lace Wars times) setting...

  3. The tortoise tank mentioned above looks like a development of this pattern (reportedly a scale model of an 'authentic' 19th C. working prototype, dropped when it appeared that to move at a satisfying speed it had to be deprived of any armour and weapons -not very exciting for an intended combat vehicle!).

  4. Hi, thanks for your interest, your input is always appreciated. I will check the book to see if its states where the illustration is from , still at work at the moment