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Founded eleven years ago as a strong-arm squad for the nazi British National Party (BNP), C18 has established - frequently accompanied by lurid press headlines - such a formidable international reputation for itself as a violent nazi hardcore group that others want to follow its example. The founder of C18 was the nazi soccer hooligan thug and petty criminal Charlie Sargent who was soon joined by others thirsting for violent action on the streets. A key early recruit was Will Browning who took over as C18's leader in 1997 during a murderous feud with Sargent over money gathered from the sales of hate music CDs and other merchandise by ISD Records, the nazis hate music outfit. In the conflict, Browning accused Sargent of robbing the movement and funnelling funds into his own pocket. In the ensuing clashes, Sargent and Martin Cross knifed Chris Castle -an ally of Browning - to death. Cross features regularly on the list of nazi prisoners abroad in the HNG's monthly bulletin.
Before the internal dispute, Combat 18 - which never had formal members - had about eighty activists and about a hundred followers drawn from the BNP, the National Front, football hooligans and the bonehead scene around Blood&Honour, which C18 controlled for a period.
It also made its mark by setting up "Redwatch" - its own version of anti-Antifa - designed to intimidate and terrorise political opponents, Jews, ethnic minorities and police officers. Several C18 activists were subsequently convicted for violent assaults on opponents. As well as attacks on other people, C18 was active in firebombing private homes and the offices of progressive organisations, including the Communist daily paper, the Morning Star.
When not doing that, C18 was busy organising a plot to send letter bombs to its enemies from Scandinavia. Danish nazi Thomas Nakaba, the man chosen as bomber, was arrested and the planned campaign was stopped before it started. The notion of orchestrated violence, in line with US nazi Louis Beam's strategy of "leaderless resistance" had hit the rocks of C18's ineptitude.
However, not long after, in 2000, London nail bomber David Copeland, a BNP member, admitted to police before his conviction for the murder of three people, that he was influenced by C18 and the ideas it borrowed from US nazi's.
Today, C18 is much weaker with just around 40 activists and about 40 supporters. Its main areas of activity are in east and west London, Oldham, west Yorkshire and the west Midlands.
Browning, though not retired, has taken a back seat and has been replaced by the often-convicted Mark Atkinson, a former BNP and British Knights of the Ku Klux Klan member. The reasons for C18's decline are fourfold.
Firstly, it has never recovered from the internal fight between Charlie Sargent and Will Browning in 1997 and 1998. Many of its supporters became disillusioned with C18, either switching allegiance to the BNP or dropping out altogether. The feud also gave those people who were not really committed to C18 the excuse to form a new Blood and Honour group. Accusations and counter-accusations being informers to the police and Searchlight destroyed the credibility of C18.
Secondly, the defection of Darren Wells (number 3 in C18) to Enough is Enough's sister magazine Searchlight added to this growing demoralisation. It also led to violent exchanges between Will Browning and Mark Atkinson.
Thirdly, the growth of the BNP has led many former C18 supporters to ditch Atkinson and his pals and get more involved in the BNP.
Finally, is also a generational effect. Most of the C18 activists were in their late 20s and early 30s already in 1992. Most were linked to the football hooligan world and, like football hooligans generally, began to drift away when they reached their early thirties.
Meanwhile, C18 has spawned another violent group, the so- called Racial Volunteer Force (RVF). The RVF is linked to C18 but has an independent identity. It was formed by Mark Atkinson and Oldham-based activist John Hill because of their growing frustration Browning's inactivity. Most of the C18 events and socials that occur in Britain today take place under the name of the RVF.
The British authorities are becoming increasingly worried about the RVF's activities which, they believe, is collecting weapons and secretly exchanging bomb designs. Hill was in South Africa during the early 1990s and boasts that he learned bomb-making skills while there. In the spring of 2003, police raided a number of homes of people belonging to the RVF and C18. Among them were Atkinson and Hill.
The police also raided Kenneth Quinn, the leader of the nazi November 9th Society. Based in Bedford, he was the name behind the RVF website and could yet face charges of distributing racist material on the Internet.
Aside from the racist content of RVF material, there is also concern that leadership figures regularly attend C18/RVF events in England and that British nazi's also travel over to Northern Ireland and Germany.
C18/RVF supporters were involved in the safehousing of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and dissident Ulster Defence Association (UDA) members in Bolton in North-west England. Among those they helped are John White (former leader of the UDA) and Gina Adair, wife of jailed Loyalist terrorist leader Johnny Adair. Though these proven terrorists have moved across the Irish Sea to England, Blair and Bush have not yet sent in troops or flattened Bolton with air raids!
In another development, the White Nationalist Party (WNP) was formed in Yorkshire as a right wing alternative to the BNP and the NF. Many WNP activists have been involved in the NF but the group is essentially the political wing of C18. The main people behind the WNP are veteran nazi's Eddie Morrison, Tony White and Kevin Watmough. The same people have set up the Redwatch website as a vehicle for their "anti-Antifa" activities.
C18's link with B&H has been more or less shattered in the years of factional warfare about who should pocket the money from the music scene. But C18 does still use the B&H name. Indeed, a C18 event in Oldham - under the B&H flag - last year was attended by Dutch and German nazi's, while a key speaker there was Alfie Phillips, an LVF terrorist who was serving a long prison sentence for murder until he was released under the Northern Ireland peace agreement.
More recently, in September 2003, a C18 concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ian Stuart Donaldson's death was attended by about 250 people, about half of whom came from Europe, including Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania and Spain.
C18 has always looked for international contacts, especially in Germany. Browning boasted of his links with the Northeim nazi fanatic Thorsten Heise and C18's top international CD distributor was the now-dead German-Danish nazi Marcel Schilf.
It has not, however, always chosen its bag carriers carefully: its first - and long-time - representative in Germany was Carsten Szepanski, later uncovered as a paid informer of the Verfassungsschutz.
Despite its present weakness and its organisational and political incompetence, C18 still has considerable dangerous influence and violent potential. This is why Maxim Brunerie, the author of the failed attempt to assassinate French president Jacques Chirac in July 2002 was in touch with C18.
It is also the main reason why equally psychotic nazis in Germany want to use C18's name and copy its activities and style, despite C18 having no proven formal links with the mob raided in northern Germany.
Graeme Atkinson, Searchlight and Antifa-net.