(This is my entry for the 124th Map of the Fortnight competition over on AH.com).
There are very few people alive who still remember the end of the world.
Of course, that's a rather loaded statement. There are still a reasonable people around who were born before, but many of them were children in the spared zones who have very little memory of before. There certainly irradiated men and women who 'survived' the bombings and still live thanks to their affliction, but without getting too deep into a contentious issue counting them that might require a looser definition of 'people'. Or indeed 'remember'.
The Great War hit what was then the United Kingdom hard. Already ravaged by the wars for resources, stretched thin across the globe in an attempt to retain its dying empire and facing chaos just across the water it almost seemed like the old Kingdom wanted to be put out of its misery. There were approximately 100 targets across Great Britain, not only large towns and cities but rural areas that had the misfortune to host an airbase or radar station. The continuous bombardment from all sides, to this day no one knows who fired at who or why, resulted in the devastation of huge areas of the country. It is said that nearly 80% of the population were killed in that first strike alone, and another 10% over the next few days and weeks.
The great cities of the Empire; London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, were all completely destroyed, the land where they once stood scarred and twisted until no life remained. These are the areas still known as the Deadzones, and still all these years later only a fool would step foot within them. Even worse of course are what came out - irradiated men and creatures that before were the stuff of nightmares.
However, outside outside of those blighted lands the land of Blighty remains. It was impossible (or rather impractical) to bomb the entire country, and outside of the urban centres 'civilised' live still clings onto the fringes of the island - the so called Living zones or occasionally (and with typical British humour) the "lucky lands". Here the semblance of government remains, in come cases tracing itself back to pre-war authorities or in others insisting its independence by force of arms. Between these areas and the deadzones form what are usually called the Wastelands. Although not directly destroyed by the bombing, these areas felt their effects through radiation, destructive storms and the creatures which emerged. In most cases these lands are filled with banditry, lawlessness and chaos. There exist a few independent settlements, primarily formed of irradiated men and the occasional trader that dares to cross the gulfs between the living zones. But anyone who wonders the Wild Wasteland will come across all forms of settlements, camps, creatures and horrors off all sorts.
The largest of the unaffected areas straddles the old borderlands between England and Scotland. With few strategic targets other than the Solway Firth and the industrial coast around the city of Newcastle, a large rural area of what was once Northumbria was spared the destruction of the bombing. The only city within this area is the former medieval fortress and county town of Durham, which contained not only an important strategic position at the centre of the Durham coalfields, but also a large academic community at the University of Durham; the only major British university to survive outside of some colleges of the University of Wales. Durham quickly became a centre of the rebuilding effort, and today stands as the capital of the Northern League; a militaristic state covering much of the unaffected areas of northern England. In opposition to the League stands the Scottish Union, formed voluntarily from several rural communities across the Scottish Borders. Two smaller states still retain their independence: Lakeland covering the Lake District and the strategic port and shipbuilding hub of Barrow, and Berwickshire which remains independent by playing off both its Scottish and English origins. Just off the coast lies the Isle of Man, officially independent and very non-interventionist in the affairs of the mainland.
Around the Irish Sea there is also a large area unaffected by the bombings across what was once the principality of Wales. A majority of the bickering city-states and kingdoms of this area only recently united into the New Wales Republic, which has quickly formed a unified professional military and government structure in the model of the Old World. The NWR military proved it's worth in the recent campaign to secure a southern port, and the two-headed dragon now flies proudly above Carmarthen. Not all the Welsh states have been united however, notably the city-state of Wrexham which took in many refugees from the surrounding English cities following the war politely declined to submit to the Aber government. More worryingly, in the east the feudal Kingdom of Powys still fights for its independence, claiming that it is the true heir of Wales rather than the upstart Republic. Beyond the Kingdom, amongst the mountains and valleys of the Brecon Beacons lies the mysterious state of Fredonia, where it is rumoured there exists an underground community known as Dark Mountain. Any visiting traders are offered no interest but are allowed to pass unhindered, whilst any Powysian forces are drawn off by booby-traps and sharpshooting.
Further around the coast at the tip of England a few more rural communities thrive, although cut off by the Deadlands around Plymouth, Exeter and Somerset. In north the Devon Council still claims authority back to before the war, and controls a sparely-populated area dominated by moorland. To the north on the island of Lundy exists the independent Principality of New Sealand, as a state its remarkable existence is matched only by its remarkably unstable political system. At the very edge of the peninsular lies Free Cornwall, incredibly isolated and at the mercy of the Atlantic storms. Finally on the south coast lies the 'Republic' of Portland, a state that makes a living out of piracy and enslavement of peoples from the surrounding lands. Its strong navy recently annexed the previously independent state of Salcombe, to cries of protest from the Devon Council, and many say that without a combined effort Cornwall may be the next target.
The final area, in the south-east of England, is the most populated and perhaps the luckiest of the 'lucky lands'. The city of Brighton and its surrounding suburbs and the channel ports survived the bombing without being targeted, whether by design or accident may never be known. Many of the coastal settlements joined together to form the Federation of the Five Ports, going on to dominate a good deal of trade throughout northern Europe from their heavily-fortified headquarters on the Isle of Thanet. The city of Brighton itself forms the core of the BrightTown Commune, a remarkably diverse state and confusing in terms of population, government and society; albeit one with a severe gang problem. Inland exists two more states, the traditionalist Kingdom of Kentia and the modernist Susex Republic; the latter has by far the greatest strength but is beset by internal strife.
Overall, the lands of Britain have seen better times. Whilst in some places force of arms, suppression and anarchy rule there are still the occasional points of light throughout the island. The future of these remains uncertain, especially considering outside interests from across the seas...