The Battle of Manchester was fought on Manchester Prime and was the bloodiest battle in human history and of the Galactic War. Starting with the arrival of Allied forces to the Manchester system, the battle would not end until three years later with the eradication of Allied forces throughout the system. Seven billion lives, including almost the entire Allied invasion force of two billion, would be lost in the course of the battle.
The world of Manchester Prime is the Coalition's industrial heart in the Spinward Fringe. It was originally a verdant, primarily agricultural world during the reign of the British and later the Americans, but the Endless War transformed it into an industrial center thanks to the necessity of fighting skirmishes that far from the Imperial heartland. By the Galactic War, it is the primary hub for military materiel production in the area and has the all-important role of supplying Coalition forces in case the engage the Conseil Systems in the fringe. The loss of Manchester Prime would slow Coalition military operations significantly, making the word important strategically. Manchester Prime allowed the Coalition to maintain a strong position in the Spinward Fringe and the Conseil knew that if the conflict escalated beyond Neu Stuttgart IV they would not be able to break the Coalition lines.
First Order of Battle
The Manchester campaign was started near the end of Pactist resistance on Neu Stuttgart IV in order to ensure the capture of that world and the establishment of a secure Allied base for further assaults into the Coalition, marking the first fighting in the Galactic War outside of Neu Stuttgart IV. The plan was directed by order from the General Secretary herself, placing utmost priority on the campaign. Allied forces punched through unprepared Coalition defenses, which did not expect an assault so soon. The Coalition fleet under Commodore Schuster, ordered a retreat and bombardment of the world. Aside from a few token forces, the Coalition retreated from Neu Stuttgart IV, leaving its local allies to largely fend for themselves before they were destroyed by their own forces from orbit. However, this was not enough to prevent Allied ships from defeating the local system fleet, landing on Manchester Prime and assaulting the factory world. Anti-orbital defenses were destroyed by the Conseil People's Legion, who dropped in from low orbit atop the fortified bunkers. This allowed the Allies to repel the Coalition fleet. Many Coalitionist troops cheered as pieces of spacecraft reentered the atmosphere and streaked through the night sky, not realizing that those ships were their own. But the Allies only won at considerable loss to themselves: many of the orbital defenses were destroyed in the course of the battle. The Allies established a naval supply route to the system through the Neu Stuttgart system, allowing them to land more troops in order to extricate the tough Coalition resistance on the world.
The Coalition defense was managed by General Benjamin Avery of the Coalition Army. Knowing the importance of the world to Columbia Prime and that his (offworld) family would be executed if he surrendered or failed, he immediately ordered a policy of fanatical resistance. Being a factory world, Manchester Prime would have no problems with military supply, but food and manpower would be a different story. With the Allies pouring in millions of soldiers from orbit every day, the five million strong Coalition garrison would not be enough to resist. In a move that would later be emulated throughout the Galactic War, Avery conscripted the planet’s entire population. Contrary to popular belief, this did not mean that every Coalitionist on the world was sent to the front: a good amount of people continued on with their lives just as in peacetime, but this time they were overseen by the military and expected to obey orders from the military without question. Corpses from the front, both Coalitionist and Allied, were sent back to large processor plants to make protein rations. When Coalitionist forces ran out of medical supplies in late 2747, medics were ordered to shoot the wounded and send them back to the processors.
Fighting was brutal on both sides. To keep the supply of materiel steady and to deny it to the Allies, Avery prevented a retreat into the countryside. He allowed Allied troops to destroy the planet’s agricultural sectors while the cities were defended fanatically. Knowing that they needed the factories themselves for later operations against the Pactists, the Allies did not use weapons of mass destruction against the cities. However, the Allies did use chemical, biological and radiological weapons against the defenders, knowing that they would only target the population and not the industrial machines they covet. With neither side willing to destroy the cities, fighting degraded to brutal infantry skirmishes. Armor was proved to be ineffective in the narrow streets, where even a child with an ermanic charge could destroy a large tank. Coalitionist troops hid in buildings and piles of rubble, attacking Allied troops as they walked through the streets. Booby traps, such as ration packs filled with explosives, were common. Frequently, troops were fighting for inches of ground and were so close to one another that they could hear the enemy’s breaths. Close combat with sonnematerial projectors, pistols and even knives became commonplace. As the supply situation worsened for both sides, sometimes entire armies would fight to the death with slabs of polycrete, metal bars and their own bare hands.
The inexperience of the Coalitionist defenders added to the battle’s body count. Most of the original Army garrison died within the first few months, with remaining units sent to the back to discourage offensives into relatively untouched areas and to train the new conscripts. By the end of 2747, the majority of the Coalition troops were housewives, old men and children. They were sent to battle by equally inexperienced commanders, frequently their own neighbors, armed with little but old coilgun rifles. But the Coalitionist troops were more dedicated to their cause than the Allies; their own world was under assault, and even without conscription many volunteered to kill the enemy that violated their sacred soil with their presence. It became a point of pride in Manchester families to bring back body parts of slain Allied troops as proof of a kill. The Coalition enslaved prisoners of war, making them do the most dangerous work without food until they died of exhaustion or starvation. Oftentimes, children and the squeamish were ordered to kill a prisoner in order to harden them for battle.
That is not to say that Allied forces were unmotivated: it was a policy among all Allied nations to shoot deserters and cowards. The Conseil in particular were devoted to the idea of a divine General Secretary leading their people to victory. Conseili culture was obsessed with the idea of obedience to the state and how a person only has worth if they honor the state with their lives. As opposed to their Soviet and Haligonian allies, Conseil troops would often take their own lives in defeat, rather than depend on their officers for the task. The Conseil were also brutal against Coalitionists in particular for historical reasons: after the failed Coalition intervention during the Soviet Civil War, the Conseil viewed the Coalition as having the singular goal of enslaving them. To them, any war against the Coalition was a war of liberation against oppressors. They treated these oppressors with the utmost brutality, especially those who surrendered. Surrender was a form of cowardice in the Conseili’s eyes, and cowardice could never be punished enough. Prisoners of war were often tortured for weeks until their bodies gave out from exhaustion; those who escaped to Coalition lines were shot for not fighting until they were killed. Even Manchester Prime’s civilians were treated brutally: Coalitionist babies were often thrown into the air for conscripts to catch on their bayonets. Girls as young as nine and women as old as ninety were raped en masse. Coalitionists were impaled alive on rebar sticking out from bombed out buildings. As the war continued and resistance stiffened, these atrocities became more widespread as the Allies became more and more frustrated. Accounts of these atrocities would be spread throughout the Coalition after the world was recaptured to prove to the people that they are fighting against monsters, not men.
The tide of the battle would turn when Battlefleet Saratoga, under Commodore and future Supreme Director John Compton, was placed in charge of liberating the system in 2748. Although his force was numerically inferior to his Allied foes, he managed to win by deliberately sending in a fraction of his force to the system first and allowing them to draw off a large portion of the Allied fleet. When the bulk of Battlefleet Saratoga entered the system, most of the Allied fleet was on the other side of the system from both Battlefleet Saratoga and Manchester Prime. Compton swept aside the remaining naval elements around Manchester Prime and began a campaign of “denial bombardment.” Rather than targeting the Allied troops directly, or targeting their heavily fortified bases, Battlefleet Saratoga targeted the roads connecting the front lines with Allied fortified areas. They also used incendiaries and pesticides to destroy any farms on the planet. Allied forces starved while the Coalitionists received supplies from orbit. Coalition Army and Marine units assaulted the beleaguered Allied forces, which smashed through the starving, ill-equipped soldiers. Meanwhile, in space, the Allied fleet rushed toward Manchester Prime but was constantly harassed by the Coalition force they pursued on their wild goose chase. Starving and suffering from a slew of disease both physical and mental, many Allied sailors mutinied and forced their captains to depressurize the entire ship. Crew performance dwindled and few Allied shots made their mark. While the Allied fleet attempted to retreat, Louise I forbade it from doing so until it could relieve the Allied forces on Manchester Prime. In 2749, the Allies were forced to challenge Battlefleet Saratoga within fifty thousand kilometers of Manchester Prime in the last major battle of the war. Allied forces were soundly defeated, damning the Allied planetary forces on Manchester Prime to defeat.
The Allies, under Haligonian general Arnold Merrill, surrendered to the Coalition on August 8th, 2749. Apart from about ten thousand men, mostly those conscripted against their will, the Conseil did not surrender; most of them either died in hopeless offensives or committed suicide. All of their senior officers took their own lives before the Coalition could. At the end, over two billion Allied troops lost their lives on the planet; about half a billion were taken prisoner and sent back to the Coalition’s labor camps and weapons testing facilities. On the Coalition side, five billion lives were lost, including General Avery. The battle would be the bloodiest of the first stage of the Galactic War, but later battles would dwarf it in scale.