The Broadside Wargames Show at Gillingham is our 'local' show and Posties Rejects always run a demo game at this event. For 2023 we put on a fictitious clash between Government troops and smugglers somewhere on the Kent coast. A few days ago I posted a video of the show featuring our game and a short slideshow of the other games at Broadside. The quality of the games was very high this year and despite the rising heat during the day, everyone seemed to be having a great time. We were busy with visitors all day long and had a really excellent day.
Skirmish at Francis Bay - June 10th 1784
Smugglers on the Kentish Coast by Posties Rejects
“Smuggler.—A wretch who, in defiance of the laws, imports or exports goods without payment of the customs.” Dr. Johnson
Kent is a perfect location for smugglers. Close to France, with good transport links to London and with gently sloping beaches making landing goods easy. Smuggling is as old as taxation itself but in the 18th century high import taxes on goods such as silks, brandy, tobacco, and tea were highly prized by so-called ‘free traders’. And with plenty of wealthy customers to service, there was a lot of money to be made for those that could avoid being caught.
One group of smugglers that would have been well-known in the local area was the North Kent Gang. They operated in areas like Chalk, Gravesend, Reculver, and Ramsgate. During the 1780’s they brought their contraband ashore and stashed it in caves near Margate. Initially, trade was small, supplementing low incomes, but eventually the ‘business’ grew into what would now be called an organized crime network. Violence was soon being employed to ‘protect’ the business and clashes with law officers or revenue men were common. In Gravesend where our group meet, the Three Daws Pub is a famous smugglers' den, and at one time there were tunnels from the pub up into the town so that contraband could be moved without being seen.
The game portrayed today is a fictitious encounter, but may still have been an occurrence many times in reality, as the government tries to stop the smuggling operations. Our game is set on the South coast of Kent, hence the white cliffs. Various locals have gathered to await the arrival of their goods from France which unfortunately have arrived late due to a swell in the channel. So, as the French fishing vessel lands on the beach with barrels of Brandy, silks, and various other goods the sun is just starting to peak over the horizon. This is not good for the smugglers as they will have to unload all the goods in the early morning sunshine. A very dangerous time to be moving contraband indeed. A local snitch has decided to make some money on the side and has informed the local government forces of a landing in the area. As they search along the coast they spot a group of men and women behaving suspiciously close by on the cliff tops. Let the game commence!