Page 5 of 6
Part Five - Mobilisation
Everything was now in place. The media were talking about the Free Cornish Army, the police were issuing statements, people had seen the pictures and read the headlines. Expectation was in the air.
And very soon on the roads.
It was time to mobilise.
Now some people say that students are, by nature, apathetic and that only a small minority will ever get out of bed to attend a political rally. (Shakes head) Not if you promise undying fame, a castle or two to storm, and the possibility of appearing on the telly.
We filled the coaches. It looked like a Che Guevara impersonators rally. Except for our contingent of maritime students who were impeccably dressed in their naval uniforms.
Cunning plan number two. Our first objective was the bridges. After all this was the original plan. To set up customs posts on the bridges across the Tamar. Everything else was just back-story to give credence to their existence. So, we dropped off the maritime students at the bridges with a handful of paramilitaries for support before heading into Cornwall.
This was the cunning plan. The maritime students looked like customs officers. The uniforms gave them credibility. When they stepped out into the road and held up a hand people would stop. And stop they did. The police helped enormously by sending along observers to make sure nothing got out of hand. Their silent presence led that extra degree of credibility. Imagine the scene. You're a driver heading towards a bridge. First you see the traffic slowing, then you see the police car, then you see the customs officers stopping traffic, then you see the masked men in olive green and dark sun glasses, then you remember what you'd read in the papers. The Free Cornish Army. The Day of Action. The mobilisation of the Cornish nation....
It worked brilliantly. The customs officers handed out temporary Cornish visas (signed by J. Trelawny, President of the Republic of Cornwall. And told the drivers about the safe routes to follow ... and the no-go areas where the fighting was still intense.
Meanwhile, the rest of us split into two brigades and marched on Truro and Launceston. At Truro the brigade seized the town square, formed into ranks and addressed the crowd who were completely taken in by the fervent rhetoric denouncing the imperialistic English and chronicling the great victory of the Free Cornish Army ... right up to the moment the speaker took off his beret, whipped out his collecting tin and declared Plymouth Rag Week officially launched.
At Launceston we stormed the castle which incensed the man on the gate. Not because we were an invading army but ... because we hadn't paid the entrance money. Even in the midst of insurrection some people have a hard time letting go of their job:)
A great day and we all got on the telly.
And even got a mention in the legendary humour magazine Punch who told their readers:
Just before we'd left London on our 1000 mile car tour of the South-West, the Daily Telegraph had told its readers that the police were investigating the activities of the Free Cornish Army. The Army, it seemed, had a six point plan for Cornish Independence and claimed to have 40 fully trained units ready for action. A document, now in the hands of the police, attacked the use of Cornwall by people from other parts of Britain and noted, grimly, that violence had worked elsewhere. There were also pictures of masked soldiers charging over a hill side.
Dickinson felt we ought to infiltrate its ranks. I think he had visions of being called to the Palace, at the end of the tour, to be knighted for bravery above the call of duty - plus, of course, well-paid appearances on Parkinson, Harty, News at Ten, and This Is Your Life. Alas, the Free Cornish Army turned out to be a joke. The "soldiers" were students from Plymouth Polytechnic publicising their Rag Week. They dressed up, while we were there, in combat jackets, berets and field boots and stopped motorists at vantage points like the Torpoint Ferry, to demand passports. Tourists were given a "temporary entrance permit" bearing a Celtic cross surrounded by the words Republic of Cornwall. A splendid hoax.