The gear is casual, but the faces are hard,
sullen, full of mistrust. Angry-looking tattoos poke out from under smart
shirt sleeves. Mobile phones lie in a neat row, next to bottles of Bud
and pints of Guinness. The talk, in a melting pot of accents from across
Londons council estates, is of football firms, lads
and jobs [robberies].
We dont want to live with
Africans and Pakis, we want to live with our own people dont
we? quips a large, Humpty Dumpty figure with a receding hairline
and a dull leer. Covered in a heavy lace of tattoos and carrying a bulky
bag of CDs, Paul David Charlie Sargent is a leader not so
much by charisma as by force and fear. He has a habit of putting a rhetorical
question at the end of his sentences. It leaves little room for discussion.
His three companions drag on cigarettes and pull baseball caps down over
their tight-cropped hair as they talk of revolution White Revolution.
Our kids are learning their way of life before their
own, laments Scott, a gruff-faced former squaddie. A clamour of
guttural yeahs, uttered into pints, supports him.
Theyre taking us over, adds Charlie in his animated,
nasal voice. The whole of London is just becoming a cesspit.
The solution? National Socialism. Which is? Racism,
he says, with a characteristically challenging look, the easiest
politics in the world.
To Charlie and the others, they meaning either the
state, which they call ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government), or the immigrant
communities are the Enemy. So now they want no part of the system.
I dont vote. Whats the point? Im not gonna play
their fucking silly little games, says Charlie.
These are members of a paramilitary struggle, based on punishment beatings,
control and fear. I know perfectly well were gonna win. Im
under no disillusions about it. Sooner or later were gonna win.
But win what? The War. What war? The war against the
government and the people invading this fucking land.
FIFTEEN MONTHS after our first encounter, I met Charlie Sargent again
in very different circumstances. Ten days ago, the founder and
leader of Combat 18, the UKs most notorious neo-Nazi group, was
sentenced to life imprisonment at Chelmsford Crown Court. The court heard
how Sargent, now 37, and one of his henchmen had killed a fellow C18 supporter,
as part of an internal feud.
Together with his close friend Martin Cross, Sargent had lured Christopher
Catford Chris Castle, aged 28, to a mobile home in Harlow,
Essex, on 10 February last year. There, Castle was ambushed and stabbed
in the back. Acting as a go-between for two rival C18 factions, he had
come to exchange Sargents plastering tools for membership lists
and £1,000 in cash.
The pathologist Dr Michael Heath noted how the 22cm wound which penetrated
Castles lungs and heart was caused by a 20cm knife. This required
severe force. The court heard that immediately after the attack,
Cross had referred to Castle as a casualty of war. Police
described the stabbing as an execution. Both Sargent and Cross
had previous convictions for violence and other offences: Sargent had
two drug-related convictions, in addition to one for possession of a gun;
Cross was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1992 after unlawfully
wounding a man with an axe.
Castles murder followed months of infighting over control of a lucrative
and illegal neo-Nazi music business, and arguments about C18s future
strategy and direction. The faction opposed to Sargent made headlines
last year when they initiated a letter-bombing campaign with help from
Danish neo-Nazis. The bombs were sent to enemies on the far right, as
well as to former swimming star Sharron Davies, who has a black husband.
This second, even more extreme faction led by Charlie Sargents
former right-hand man (who cannot be named for legal reasons) is
now in the ascendancy, and has seized the Combat 18 name. In its magazine
Strikeforce, it proclaims itself to be revolutionary and promises
an international terrorist campaign, a threat that Special Branch is taking
The new C18 has promised further bloodletting against the
faction loyal to Sargent, which is now called the National Socialist Movement.
At Sargents trial a fortnight ago, the two sides traded insults
and threats as they were kept apart by police. The blood is going
to flow, predicted Eddie Stanton, a Sargent loyalist based in Romford.
Detective Superintendent Steve Reynolds, chief investigating officer in
the Sargent/Cross murder case, said after the trial: There is an
intense rivalry between the two factions of C18 and it would be naive
to think its all ended now. There is a code of violence here which
is absolutely frightening.
COMBAT 18 originally carved its name in history in the early Nineties.
It was the first right-wing group in the UK to take the state head-on,
entirely rejecting conventional politics. The group had originally promised
a violent race war against invading immigrants and a system
which it believed had abandoned working-class white people.
It proved attractive to disillusioned young men across the country, and
particularly on the council estates of the South-East, because it brooked
no compromise and promised direct action against the oppressors.
C18 originated as a group providing security for the British National
Party, the UKs principal far-right organisation. C18 took its name
from the numerical position of Adolf Hitlers initials in the alphabet
1 and 8 aiming to terrorise its
opponents. In a departure from previous right-wing ventures, C18 did not
attempt to persuade ordinary people to its cause, or to win elections
it just acted. As Charlie Sargent told me when I first met him:
It would be a lie to think we are attractive to most people, because
were not. We are what we are. We dont pretend were something
Instead, C18 looked for support among the ultra-violent football hooligan
firms and around the white power skinhead music
scene. (Despite this, however, few of C18s supporters were actually
skinheads, preferring the designer-casual image of the football hooligans:
Skinheads are basically wankers. The only skinheads are Reds and
queers, laughed Steve Sargent, Charlies softer-spoken younger
brother, when I asked him about their image.)
A number of members also worked (and still do) as cocaine dealers and
illegal debt collectors in the criminal underworld. They were happy to
show me how to bosh someone in the stomach with a knife, as
a penalty for failing to pay up on a loan. Similarly, they mocked the
Governments law and order strategy, claiming it was ineffectual
and that the prisons were C18s natural recruiting ground. With their
jailbird tattoos, they would casually refer to the police as scum.
By their own admission they were violent people. Were thugs
who follow an ideology, boasted Charlie.
C18 quickly attracted the street-hooligan elements of the Right, mainly
from around London and the Home Counties area. Initially numbering just
a few dozen members, the group grew rapidly as it went on the offensive,
attacking left-wing bookshops, gay pubs and anti-apartheid activists.
It began to produce its own bulletin, Redwatch, a tatty, photocopied sheet
listing the names of its opponents. Battles with left-wing activists are
remembered with a sense of tribal pride by many C18 members.
The Reds were going around and they were beating the living daylights
out of the right wing. They were kicking in doors, petrol-bombing people
and beating old men black and blue with hammers [a reference to an attack
by anti-fascists on a right-wing meeting in Kensington Library during
1992]. Red Action [an extreme left-wing group] were absolutely battering
the right, recalled Charlie. We decided we werent having
that and we thought wed do something about it. Which meant?
We fuckin battered em wherever we met, until there was
no fucker left standing, he laughed, puffing out his chest. Now
we dont see them no more.
The relationship between C18 and the larger BNP began to deteriorate during
1993, however, as the latter became increasingly embarrassed by C18s
violent behaviour. The election of Derek Beackon as the BNPs first-ever
local councillor, in Millwall in September 1993, sealed the split between
the two organisations. From then on, the BNP proscribed joint membership
(sometimes to little effect, because C18 didnt have any official
members as such).
As C18 developed a more extreme National Socialist (Nazi) position, it
attracted a hardcore of 200 or so followers from around the country. Although
its numbers would sometimes swell with occasional support from football
hooligans and skinheads from the white power music scene,
this hardcore remained constant.
Race not Nation were not British nationalists, were
racialists, Charlie told me 15 months ago. C18 believed in the white
European/Aryan race, as opposed to the BNPs belief in
the British nation. The BNPs view is just bullshit,
said Steve Sargent, but were not under no illusions. The BNP
say theyre gonna sweep the country in 10 years time, but thats
bullshit, coz its never gonna happen. Where the BNP
had the idea of repatriating black and other communities to their native
countries, C18 believed in building white powerbases from which to launch
In another departure from previous right-wing extremist thinking, C18
drew ideological inspiration from the USA, particularly from theories
espousing race war. Thus, in a French Nazi publication, Terror
Elite, Charlie Sargent explained that the race war desired by neo-Nazis
would not happen of its own accord: We have to incite the niggers
and Arabs. I and others are personally dedicated to declaring war on the
system over the coming years. I know that could mean death or life imprisonment,
but I hope to light a touchpaper to a fire so powerful that Zog will never
put it out.
The group adopted, or at least claimed to adopt, a strategy known as leaderless
resistance. Using this strategy, small cells of activists would
operate autonomously, theoretically making the organisation more resistant
to infiltration. This system was devised by followers of The Order, a
right-wing terrorist group in the USA which murdered law-enforcement officials
and a prominent Jewish radio host in 1984. While it was eventually destroyed
in a shoot out with the FBI, The Order became an inspiration for neo-Nazis
across the world. Former followers are still in touch with C18 today.
Figures on both the Left and Right were regularly targeted by C18s
punishment squads. Indeed, many on the Right including
BNP members grew to fear C18 more than the Left, as it viciously
attacked members of what is saw as rival organisations. C18 leaders were
always proud to boast that their organisation was larger and stronger
than any other including legal parties on the Right. In
reality, factional rivalry meant that they were often the ones who had
most to fear from the group.
C18 also proved attractive to some on the Right because of its strong
links with the Loyalist paramilitaries. While other right-wing groups
paid lip service to this cause, C18 actively took up their struggle. In
1993, one follower was caught with six handguns in his car; while the
following year, a sympathiser was arrested in the company of a Ulster
Defence Association member, with sub-machine guns and a rocket launcher.
This close relationship with the Loyalists led some to suggest that C18
was an MI5 honeytrap (this was disputed by security sources), created
as a way of infiltrating the Loyalist terror world.
The group also allied itself with extremists from across Europe and the
USA, as demonstrated by the letter-bomb campaign in January last year,
which involved neo-Nazis from Britain, Denmark and Sweden. Three Danish
neo-Nazis are now serving between three and eight years each for their
part in the plot.
Furthermore, C18 controlled a lucrative and illegal music business, making
it the first such organisation with access to a significant amount of
capital. White-power bands were promoted at secret gigs, and CDs and other
merchandise were sold illegally throughout the world. Nazi bands which
did not join, or criticised C18 control, suffered punishment beatings
and regular intimidation from C18 hardliners.
Such influence could be seen on Europes largest housing estate,
Harold Hill, in Romford, Essex. The local C18 cell subjected
an Asian family to several months of attacks and racial harassment. A
boulder was thrown through the familys front door, graffiti was
sprayed on the outside of their house, wheel nuts were loosened, and a
corrosive liquid was thrown into the wifes face. When asked about
this incident, Steve Sargent was coy but eventually said with a guttural
laugh: I only heard that the family dog was thrown through the front
window - dead.
Another victim of C18s violence was Ross Fraser, a former editor
of the Chelsea Independent soccer fanzine. Following remarks that racism
had no place in football, Fraser was subjected to a vicious campaign of
violence. In an attack on a London pub, Fraser was left needing seven
stitches to his face and his sight was permanently damaged after he was
struck with a broken bottle. Three others required hospital treatment,
one with a slashed jugular vein. Two months later, Fraser only narrowly
missed further injury after a C18 supporter tried to stab him in the face
after a Chelsea game in Prague.
Despite the rhetoric, this was where C18 was most dangerous, attacking
individuals and small, isolated groups rather than large enemies
such as the State. C18s reputation grew beyond its actual, rather
small, core following; for example, Charlie Sargent (wrongly) claimed
that C18 had initiated the riots at the England v Ireland match in Dublin
in 1995. The press, keen for an exclusive, went wild for the story. T-shirts
were printed and distributed across Europe, with young skinheads proud
to wear Combat 18 insignia. Thus the C18 name, and legend, grew.
WINTER 1996. The Railway Tavern is a small, grotty pub with peeling green
paint, squatting inconspicuously opposite Chelmsford railway station.
Inside, Charlie and Steve Sargent are sitting silently, awaiting my arrival.
Charlie is in a dark, tetchy mood, answering questions with a brief eah
or naa. A baseball cap is perched precariously on his large
head. As the Big Man of C18, he has already warned me at our
previous meeting not to stitch us up, or well fuck you over
I have come to see the brothers on home territory their power base
to try and understand something about them as people, about their
motivation and their aims for the future.
This bustling Essex commuter town, with its territorial pubs and large,
white council estates, will be the centre, C18 argues, for a paramilitary
struggle. The group will slowly and surely take over the estates, populated
as they see it by white East End emigrés, and become the dominant
political force in the area.
Like other such areas, Chelmsford has a schizophrenic character. On the
one hand, there are quiet, suburban parks and green-belt areas. Marconi
has its headquarters there. Bright Christmas lights hang over the old
market area and a single tiny mosque nestles inconspicuously behind a
curry house. From this angle, it seems a quiet, suburban commuter town.
However, the street with the longest row of pubs is known locally as The
Road of Death, due to the number of fights which take place there.
At weekends, young lads from the surrounding towns and villages pile into
nightclubs looking, as Steve Sargent says, for booze, a shag
and a fight. And the predominantly white, working-class estates
have proved themselves to be an ideal breeding ground for the insularity
and youthful discontent upon which C18 thrives.
You go to any Essex town, and theyve trebled in size, yeah?
says Charlie, chubby fist gripping a pint of lager. They're building,
building, building in every Essex town and the reason is that the whites
are leaving London.
Its always been a bit stronger for racist support, always,
says Steve, waiting deferentially for Charlie to finish. He speaks slowly,
in a more measured tone, than his elder brother. The East Ends
always had its racist support, hasnt it? Now them racists that voted
for the BNP and National Front in the Seventies, most of them now live
in Essex. He emphasises the word racist.
If we stand for election, well get eliminated, Charlie
butts in. The loyalist paramilitaries or Sinn Fein when they stand
for elections, theyre humiliated basically, but as a paramilitary
group they get respect. Thats how weve got to go. He
adopts his challenging look. Were targeting certain estates,
because we need more local support. I mean, were not going to be
able to go into the middle-class areas of Chelmsford and win support
we know that.
It is a working-class movement, full of dull anger and resentment at the
bias of The System. Our community has been smashed,
complains Charlie. When I grew up, right, you knew everyone and
everyone knew you. Now you have the blacks come in. Most of the blacks
and whites, whether people like it or not, dont mix. Then you have
the Asians coming in. Then you have people who have mixed-race kids [whom
they hate more than anything else]. It splits everyone up. You aint
got any real community left and that fucks everything up. Thats
how it is on any estate, on any street in London now.
Charlie argues that most white working-class people arent interested
in politics, but race. They're either for it or against it,
he states, with a chopping gesture. And the ones that dont
agree with us, well weve got to make them respect us, fear us, or
however you want to say it, he says, adopting that look again.
In this scenario, Chelmsford would be part of an Aryan Homeland, with
the paramilitary struggle taking place on the working-class estates while
a kibbutz-style smallholding or commune is set up in the countryside.
The Homeland would also contain a school and doctors, and would operate
a bartering system instead of using money. It would function as a simpler,
perhaps mythical form of community from which to attack the State and
Again stemming from an American concept, and inspired by the belief that
the System is fixed against them, the plan was to withdraw as much as
possible from society and to create a National Socialist state within
Britain itself. One of C18s myriad (and illegal) publications states:
The inner cities are lost. We must realise this and take our only
real option converge as many of our people as we can in the Homeland
area and gradually take control of it and run it on strict Aryan-only
lines. One has only to look at the religious divides in Belfast to see
that we can achieve our aim, the only difference being ours will be on
racial not religious divides.
C18 even created a National Socialist Alliance (NSA) of various extreme
right-wing groups, which would function as a cross-party forum, one aim
of which was to support the Homeland. It gathered funds for the project
(£10 per share, with 1,000 shares giving you the right
to work permanently and reside on the site) and helped arrange accommodation
for prospective recruits. C18s profits from its music business also
supported the project.
Charlie is keen to extol the virtues of the Homeland, and the success
he and Steve have had in attracting supporters. The more powerful
you become in that area, the more chance youve got, explains
Steve. You gotta do it bit by bit, you cant do it in the whole
country straight away. In this way, drug dealers would be forced
from estates (Hell be told to leave and if he dont,
his house is gonna go up and thats the end of it, says Charlie,
like the IRA and UDA) and local building and contract work
(important to the likes of C18 supporters both Charlie and Steve
are plasterers by trade) would be controlled directly by C18. Any opposition
would get seriously fucking hurt in a paramilitary-style struggle.
Would racial intimidation be used, as at Harold Hill? Of course.
Theyve got the whole fucking country to live in, int they?
If they come here, theyre just trying to provoke us, int they?
Well, if they come here, thats what they can expect. Simple as that.
I dont eat curries and I dont eat chapatis, he adds,
laughing. Theyre not the same as us, are they? Youre
English, you understand, dont you?
So speaks Charlie. He is a man of simple answers. Challenging any of them
too openly provokes an aggressive What do you mean by that?
his mouth set in a small, intimidating o. And he already
has a reputation as a man with a fearsome temper. He has survived an axe
attack and always carries a knife, by his own admission. Steve later tells
me that he once saw Charlie bite off an opponents nose during a
Steve is quieter, but when he looks down into his pint, he displays a
rough set of scars upon his close-cropped head. These were sustained during
a confrontation in which C18 attacked Asian shops in east London. He was
slashed by machetes across his head and back, needing more than 100 stitches.
He laughs when recounting this story, but his laugh is nervous.
When he does look up, his eyes are clear and honest, and his hands and
mouth expressive. It is sometimes hard to believe both are family men,
well-travelled (Steve lived in eastern Europe for a year and Charlie backpacked
for three years) and can at times be warm and expressive. Both have a
regular, if slightly rough, sense of humour. Charlie also has four kids
and a partner in Harlow for whom he professes undying love. He is upset
when they are targeted by the local press, or are sent Jiffy bags
full of excrement by anti-fascists. He wants to protect them.
Why then such fanaticism, such hate? What terrible event set them on this
course? The brothers both claim they had happy, uneventful childhoods,
raised as they were in a family of three brothers and two sisters on an
estate in Barnet, north London. Their father was a Loyalist supporter
from Clacton, who brought up his children to be proud racists.
He was hard but fair, our old man, Ill give him that,
says Steve. He brought us up to believe in certain things, just
like if your dad was a communist, youd grow up believing communist
things, adds Charlie. What does this mean, exactly? We were
brought up as fascists and nationalists.
Football and music were the gathering points for the young Sargents. Their
older brother Billy had already gone off to become a heavy for various
groups on the Right. To Charlie, fighting with 200 other fans at an Arsenal
away game became a way of proving your manhood. The talk turns
to football firms, and how trust and loyalty to your mates are incredibly
important (and no one should ever, ever, grass to the police).
We were both involved in the hooligan thing and started out fighting,
says Charlie, munching with gusto on the lunch I have just bought him.
Between mouthfuls, he adds: Its always been that way, hasnt
it? Theres nothing wrong with that. From there it was a natural
progression to shaving his head, joining National Front marches and becoming
a heavy for the British Movement (a violent neo-nazi group of the late
When that group split in early Eighties, about 30 of us left and
thats when we got involved in robberies and all that, says
Charlie matter-of-factly. The aim was to put away money for projects
to do with the Right, but he is vague about specifics. He was just 20
at the time. Since then he has been imprisoned four times, including for
possession of guns and drugs. They tell me that some things went
down this summer which were worth five to 10 [years].
Both brothers reminisce about life back then, a golden period
when things were better. To Steve, for example, it meant only having one
Paki in his school. To Charlie, the 1950s and the era of Ealing
comedies were a good time for this country. Everyone had work, London
was probably one of the cleanest and crime-free cities in the world. Now
look at it. Its a fucking cesspit, he spits.
In their view, cultures should not mix except white Europeans,
of course: Were all the fucking same, aint we? What
the fucking hells the difference between a Norman and a Saxon in
1066? Yet they admit admiration for the Jews and Asians
for maintaining strong communities. Charlie also laments the lack of moral
guidance in todays society. The Church of England now is so
full of poofs and every sort of scum, what can you expect?
Respect, together with trust, loyalty and honour are the main virtues
in this tribal society. Football battles with your mates are described
in glowing terms. Steve in particular gets carried away, showing me how
he bounces up and down before a fight between two sets of fans. His face
flushes with excitement as he mimics these motions, while his mouth screams
Charlie understands that respect comes from the toughest fellow. You
respect the geezer who can beat everyone up. Everyone wants to know whos
the best fighter on the estate. Its always been the way. People
arse lick em. His is a highly territorial world. But it also
revolves around control and Charlies view of who should be doing
it usually him. Charlie, for example, dominates conversations both
physically and verbally, often cutting others off. Steve stays unusually
silent in his elder brothers company.
It is also a male world. Our women are our partners, but not our
equals and betters, says Charlie. The flags, the drums, the
Nationalist spirit its not really a thing for women. Their
place is at home with the kids. They should be doing that, not out fighting.
A lot of our women agree with us as well.
THE IDEOLOGICAL heavyweight behind all this talk is a man called David
Myatt. An eccentric former monk, Satanist and widely travelled martial-arts
expert, Myatt (who is 48) has previously attempted to establish a Nazi-occultist
commune in Shropshire. He now produces a regular bulletin, The National
Socialist, which espouses race war, the supremacy of the Aryan nation,
and a fanatical devotion to warrior values of Loyalty, Duty
A typical theme in his writings runs thus: So-called racial hatred
and racism itself are Natures way of protecting her creations and
protecting herself it is race mixing which is the ultimate evil.
Race mixing is a crime against life itself. Elsewhere, he calls
for a holy war against our enemies, for these enemies are threatening
our very racial existence.
Myatt provides much of the intellectual legitimacy which groups
like C18 mainly composed as they are of self-educated, working-class
young men lack. His writings go into great, often tortuous detail
about National Socialist values, but he has the ear of people like the
Sargents, in particular Steve (with whom he has now forged a new group
called the National Socialist Movement).
However, unlike C18, Myatt draws inspiration from a fanatical devotion
to Germany in the 1930s. National Socialist Germany is the closest
thing to there being a cultural expression of something which is natural
and healthy for Aryan peoples, he says in a polite, soft-spoken
accent when we meet at the tea shop in Malvern station, surrounded by
oblivious old-age pensioners.
Listening to Myatt is a surreal experience. A slim, diminutive figure
dressed in bright cycling gear and sporting a huge beard, he has a passion
for toasted tea cakes and translating Greek literature. We talk for an
hour about race war, Aryan supremacy and warrior values. He sees his role
as educating and guiding young neo-Nazis. In particular, he believes in
the supremacy of Aryan warriors, represented by todays skinheads.
Their raw violence can be harnessed and disciplined for the National Socialist
cause. Im trying to raise these people up, to harness their
own instincts in a productively useful way. He expresses great admiration
for both Spartan and ancient Japanese societies. In his ideal world, we
would all be warrior-farmers or enslaved to those who were.
Unlike C18s members, Myatt is well educated and, in his own words,
of independent means. His father worked for the British
Empire and as a child, he lived in east Africa and Asia. He read
widely about National Socialism and Hitler, becoming a convert in his
teens. Yet even by his own admission he is a loner and a fanatic, who
hates cities and motor cars, and who became disillusioned with groups
such as the National Front. He even spent 18 months as a monk but
I had a great struggle between my political beliefs and religious
dogma. I finally decided they were incompatible.
We share several awkward silences. A shy man, he seems uncomfortable in
the company of others, and it is difficult really to find out why or how
he was so drawn to Nazism. All he will admit is that he has been in prison
twice for his beliefs and that he was profoundly affected by the death
of a loved one. He has since decided that revolution and a great leader
are needed to bring about the resurgence of the Aryan peoples. He admits
to a similarity between himself and extremist religious figures: I
know Im right, he states simply.
Yet his conversation and writings show little understanding or empathy
with human nature. He stresses again and again the need for fanatical
values in bringing about his new society, attacking other cultures and
traitors to the Aryan cause yet he admits to being
continually disappointed by real life. His vision of a Homeland
organic farming, horse-drawn equipment and no contact with the
outside world also differs sharply from the reality of the Sargent
THE REALITY on the ground for Combat 18 was really football violence and
the far right music scene. When I first met Charlie, for example, he was
holding a large bag of illegal white power CDs, which he willingly
displayed. These discs formed part of a highly profitable music business
run by C18 and which helped fund the groups various activities.
With the formation of ISD Records (the name taken from the late lead singer
of skinhead band Skrewdriver, Ian Stuart Donaldson, a neo-Nazi hero),
C18 launched into the world of business the first time a right-wing
group had controlled such a large money-making venture. Over the last
three years ISD produced nearly 30 CDs with a total production
run of more than 30,000 discs and made more than £200,000
It was, however, these profits which provided one of the main reasons
for the feud within C18, and which led to the events in which Chris Castle
was murdered. Charlie Sargents right-hand man and C18s new
leader (who, as mentioned, cannot be named for legal reasons) controlled
the music business. A man feared even by Steve Sargent (All he does
is train every day for the war), he and Charlie differed over how
to spend the funds. During the autumn of 1996 the two men began to argue
over this, and over the future direction of the organisation. Sargent
wanted to dominate the far right scene, while his henchman preferred to
create a smaller, terrorist-style organisation in order to launch attacks
on the State.
This eventually resulted in the feud which saw Chris Castles murder
and the Danish letter bombings, with each side accusing the other of working
for the State and acting as police informants. The remaining C18 faction
is now committed to existing as a smaller, more hardline terrorist organisation.
FOR STEVE SARGENT, recreating a community is simply the only realistic
option we have. Like Charlie, he believes their community
has been smashed. Wandering with him around the pubs of Chelmsford, he
is less confident, less absolute, than Charlie. He is uncomfortable with
the label of Nazi, saying that the Right already attracts
too many bedsit weirdoes, and seems much happier describing
old football days and tribal street battles than any notion of the future.
He yearns for a simpler life. Ive spent half my life punching
and fighting my way through different people, and I just dont want
it no more, you know. Im too fucking old for it all. You get some
20-year-old come along and hes gonna knock the fucking shit out
of ya. I ask him what he really wants. He pauses for a while. I
don?t know really. Its whether you talk fantasy or reality. In fantasy,
I want lovely clean streets and blue-eyed blonde birds. In reality,
he pauses again, pretty much like what its like now.
And the reality was that the Homeland never took off. The Sargents only
attracted one outsider, a French neo-Nazi, to the area. Although they
had support from individuals, such as Martin Cross, already based in Essex,
the dream remained just that a dream. The group was rarely a national
danger despite its propaganda other than to individuals
or small groups. It was never really organised into cells or contained
committed terrorists (with a few notable exceptions) rather, it
was an extended football hooligan firm, or tribal gang. The rhetoric was
there, if not always the practice. C18s long-promised race war and
attacks on the State never ignited.
24 JANUARY 1998, Holloway Road, north London: the march to mark
the 25th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday killings.
It is bitterly cold, and the Union Jack hangs limply from the railings.
Forty or so ragged-looking skinheads from the National Front are outnumbered
at least 50 to one by the marchers. The NSM protection force,
lurking out of sight in a couple of nearby pubs, is small and easily noticed
by the police. Although they have a few faces from Chelsea and some of
the lads from Romford, the right-wingers soon leave the area, which is
already swarming with streetfighters from Anti-Fascist Action.
Memories of the central-London pub in which I had first met the leaders
of Combat 18 now seem very distant. In its heyday, C18 would have fielded
several dozen hardmen, a mixed gang of hooligans and fascists tooled
up for the occasion, ready for confrontation with their traditional
enemy, the Reds. But things have changed dramatically for
the Nazi streetfighters and the brothers who led them.
In the dock at Chelmsford Crown Court a fortnight ago, Charlie Sargent
cut a lonely, almost sad figure, stripped of his reputation and coterie.
When I first met him some 15 months ago, he seemed an intimidating figure,
with his short, cropped hair, surrounded by followers and talking of a
paramilitary struggle. Now wearing glasses, with his hair long and very
much on his own, the myth was dispelled. I noticed for the first time
just how physically small he really is. It seemed to highlight the difference
between reality and the fantasy so often espoused in the far rights
literature and lifestyles. Is this finally the reality of
original appeared in The
Independent on Sunday Review 1998; later versions in The
South China Morning Post Magazine and other titles. It won a Special
Commendation award from the International
Federation of Journalists in 1999.
You can buy this article, and seek new
commissions, either by contacting me
direct or my syndication agency, www.featurewell.com
IFJ Special Commendation Winner
News story I wrote in The Independent at the same time
Charlie Sargent, ex-C18 leader.
Detectives showing the knife used to kill Chris
National Front skinhead demonstrating at
Bloody Sunday remembrance march.
Cross, Charlie's right hand man.