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Footnotes The Search for HMS Sussex / Irish Jack

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The Origins and Early History of the 3rd Battalion

British Sea Power's fanbase is occasionally referred to as the 3rd Battalion, a name which was originally coined as a way of describing the fans who followed the band around Britain and Europe during 2003. Mark Rodgers, aka 'Captain Riot', describes below how the Battalion was born.

The evening of Saturday, May 17, 2003 was a dismal one in the city of Coventry, England. Four men and one woman found themselves in the grim surroundings of McGuigan's public house (now the Swanswell Tavern). They had been brought together by their love of British Sea Power, who were performing that night at the nearby Coliseum.

They – and a small number of absent acquaintances – were beginning to clock up a number of BSP gigs between them. The conversation turned to deriving a collective name for those regular fans, who by now had not only travelled the length and breadth of Britain but had also ventured to foreign climes to see their favourite band.

Military analogies – including the use of the term 'battalion' – had already been used to describe groups of the band's followers on the forum of British Sea Power's website, particularly before the legendary Garage gig two days earlier (which saw the first large gathering of BSP fans, in the Famous Cock pub in Islington), so it seemed sensible to devise a name along this common theme.

Rejecting the idea of The Concert Party, one man in the group suggested the 3rd Battalion. Instantly, the name struck a chord and agreement was reached. The 3rd Battalion was founded.

Just as the Battalion was being toasted for the first time, a strange incident occured some 150 miles away in Lewes, Sussex – then home of the Wilkinson brothers. One absent regular follower – wishing he was in Coventry – was waiting to catch the 21.20 train to London. While standing on the deserted station platform by a tunnel covered with foliage, a loud gunshot-like bang was heard, followed by several explosions which sounded exactly like a military assault. High above the tunnel, there followed a wild and spontaneous unplanned firework display, the deafening noise from which caused flocks of startled birds to scatter into the evening sky. It ended as abruptly as it had started, leaving an eerie silence and the air heavy with a choking smell of gunpowder...

Public mention of the 3rd Battalion was first made the following week on the BSP forum. It soon found favour with the fans and within two weeks the first reference in the media to "the band's itinerant crew of military-jacketed acolytes, the 3rd Battalion" was made in an interview with the internet magazine Play Louder. Since then, there has been considerable discourse about who the 3rd Battalion are, and whether there are any eligibility rules. Rather like my home, the Black Country, it appears that the 3rd Battalion has no defined boundary. The consensus is that if you feel part of it, then you are part of it.

One question, however, remains unanswered. Something was definitely in the air on that May evening. Could the birth of the 3rd Battalion and The Strange Incident at Lewes Station have been something more than mere coincidence?

Captain Riot
November 2003



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