Friday, 8 September 2017

Gloria in Excelsis Vulgaria!

Leaving events in Grand Fenwick, dear reader, we now turn our attention once again to Vulgaria. There, another clash in the ongoing kleiner Krieg, this time in the vicinity of Donaukerbad, has produced a sudden surge in that rarest of Vulgarian commodities - optimism.

'A Vulgarian victory!' shouts Prince Dimitri, Voivode of Vulgaria, in a state of high excitement. 'An actual military success!'
'We should keep a sense of perspective my lord,' replies Count Arnim von Loon, the Prince's majordomo. 'It was a success in the kleiner Krieg, sir, with a small freibattalion force. We still await news of the main clash between our army and that of the Margarvate of Wurstburp.'
Prince Dimitri strides briskly around the throne room of Schloss Feratu, his footsteps echoing in the gloom. 'But a victory nevertheless! A proper victory! Glory. And also booty, no doubt - cannon; prisoners, baggage; enemy banners?'
'Well, my lord, actually mainly sheep.'
'And also, I think, some ducks.'
'Hmm. How many ducks?'
'Three, I believe, sir.'
'So, a glorious victory!' crows Dimitri.
'Yes, I suppose so, sir. If one likes ducks.'
'But a victory! A real success! I feel reinvigorated, Loon - Lola is in so much trouble this evening!'
'Yes my lord, ' replies Loon, evidently not sharing quite so much in the Prince's air of warm enthusiasm.

The Prince halts as his eyes lock onto his majordomo's slightly depressed visage. Dimitri looks suspicious. 'Loon, you're not just making this up to make me feel better.'
'No, my lord.'
'Because you did do that when we were playing billiards - you let me win, didn't you?'
'Yes, my lord: that is true. Although you did threaten to have me hung, drawn, and quartered if I didn't let you defeat me.'
'Just a little princely japery, Loon. You should have stood up to me - speak truth to power, and such!'
'Yes sir. Although, for the record, I did speak the truth and you then used your power to have me hung, sir.'
'Yes, but it was just a little jest, Loon. They let you down.'
'You mean that the rope broke, sir.'
'Broke, schmoke: you see, I trusted in fate and a weak rope.'
'It broke because you were pulling so hard on my feet, sir.'
'Well, yes,' admits Dimitri. 'But look, if everyone I tried in a huff to execute took it personally, I wouldn't have very many friends left, now would I?'
Count von Loon contemplates the empty throne room. 'No sir, that would no doubt be true.'

The Prince strikes his thigh with a pair of velvet gloves. 'But come now, Loon - you are in danger of ruining the moment! Let us talk more of this success! So, which of my brave Vulgarian military titans was responsible for this success. Tell me who - they must be rewarded! Lavished with titles, lands, money. Perhaps given a day off.'
Loon pauses for a moment before continuing. 'Well, my lord, it's like this. Our Freibattalion was commanded by Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck. It was he who oversaw our triumph against Wurstburp.'
'Prince Brad?' says Dimitri confused. 'Brad the Inhaler?'
'The, um, the very same, my lord.'
'But hang on: isn't Prince Brad the son of my arch nemesis, Vlad the IX: Vlad Cagul, the former Count of Roldova and Baron of Herzo-Carpathia?'
'Yes sir. The son of Vlad, previous ruler of Harzo-Carpathia, whom you deposed in order to re-establish Osterberg rule in Vulgaria. Brad escaped from your clutches in this very castle.'
'So,' says Dimitri gesticulating, 'what was he doing in command of Vulgarian troops?'
'That's not entirely clear, sir. Certainly, there must be some long term nefarious purpose of which we are as yet ignorant. He has since disappeared.'
'But ... but ... didn't anyone notice that our forces were being commanded by one of our chief antagonists? Brad is famously distinctive in his looks: you know - the sallow skin; protruberant canines; aversion to garlic; the penchant for capering hunchbacked minions? And the dark cloaks, and drafty castles.'
'Oh yes, sir, Brad is well known. And many did at the time point out that he did look the spitting image of Prince Brad, even down actually to being called Brad. But a stringent investigation was conducted and it was concluded that, although he looked exactly like Prince Brad von Schnail und Planck, he promised that he absolutely wasn't Prince Brad and had never met him. And also, of course, apparently he had some orders that put him in charge of the Vulgarian freibattalion.'
Dimitri looks aghast. 'Didn't anyone check the veracity of these supposed orders?'
'Oh yes, sir - we wouldn't let a stranger take command of our forces without stringent checks on their orders.'
'Well, apparently the orders seemed vague, poorly expressed, badly spelled, and largely irrelevant. So they seemed entirely authentic.'

Duke of Marlborough: 'Captain Haverley - these fellows under my
command; they are His Majesty's troops and not, say, the French?'
Haverley: 'Indeed, sir - from their red coats and general unwillingness
to learn a foreign language, I should say that they are, indubitably,
Duke of Marlborough: 'Splendid!'

Dimitri shakes his head. 'Well, let's just keep that part of the battle quiet shall we.' He then brightens again. 'Now, show me the woodcuts of the battle and describe the action!'
'I'm afraid that there are no woodcuts, my lord. They forgot to make them.'
'No woodcuts? But how then am I supposed to know what happened?'
'Well, sir, I could just report to you verbally - read from the dispatches.'
'But where's, the drama, dammit Loon. Where's the sad tragedy?'
Loon sighs. 'I think there's enough of that here already, sir.'
'No, it won't do,' barks Dimitri.  'I'll tell you what - call the orchestra: you can read the dispatches out, and they can add some dramatic music to really conjure the atmosphere.'
'That's not usual, my lord. Aren't you afraid of missing the requisite comprehension of some important point?'
'Blazes, Loon. It's just a battle: what points of subtlety can there be? I tell you there's nothing that can't be improved by the strategic addition of a clarinet! Call the orchestra! Tell them to get their hands off their instruments and onto their trumpets!

Der Alte Fritz: 'I've called you together men, just to check that,
you're Prussian and that I am not inadvertently commanding Austrians,
 or Russians, or English, or Portuguese, or badgers.'
General Seydlitz: 'But my King - can you not tell from the fact that the great
size of our moustaches stands in inverse proportion to our sense of humour
that we are indeed your loyal Prussian Subjects! Also, we're mainly
wearing blue and we love sausages.'
Der Alte Fritz: 'Marvellous!'

A short while later, and the palace orchestra blearily arrives. They have all the shambling chaos of a better than average Vulgarian military parade. Suitable threats from Prince Dimitri impose some kind of order upon them.
Dimitri turns again to von Loon.
'So, are you ready to begin?'
'Yes sir,' he holds the dispatch. 'I beg to report the ...'
'Wait! Wait!' interjects the Prince. He turns to his assembled orchestra who peer at him with a mixture of fear and morbid obesity.
'Maestro - something dramatic!' cries Dimitri. 'A proper introduction to a brave Vulgarian battle!'
As Loon prepares his report, violins wail thinly and a tuba emits a low farting sound.
'Splendid!,' says Dmitri. 'This is so exciting. Begin!'
'I beg to report the results of an action of the second of this month by elements of the army of the Voivodate of Vulgaria. It would seem that, with the armies of Vulgaria and Wurstburp in close proximity, General van Rentall dispatched a force of troops to pillage the local area to acquire supplies for our army, deny the same to the enemy, and generally to work off some of the bad humour occasioned by the arrival again of Principal Counsellor Ranald Drumpf.'
'Oh yes,' nods Dimitir, 'I sent him back to the army.'
'I don't think General Rentall likes him, my lord.'
'No, I'm sure that that is the case. But he couldn't stay here. I got so tired of his terrible bird impressions.'
'Ah yes - his witless tweets.'
'Indeed. Indeed. Ooooh,' says Dimitri suddenly, settling into a chair with some wine, 'will this report contain descriptions of a woman without, you know, her clothes on?'
Loon frowns. 'No, sir, of course no ...'. He pauses slightly, noticing the cirrus clouds of disgruntlement that begin to waft across the skies of Dimitri's face, to be followed soon, no doubt, by the strato cumulus storm clouds that promise rains, high winds, and hangings blowing in from the southeast. 'No, sir,' says Loon. 'There is no woman; rather there are certainly, I am reliably informed, many unclotherd women in this tale of battle.'
'Excellent, excellent,' beams Dimitri.
'And,' says Loon warming to his theme, 'I'm sure I noticed in the report a point later on in the battle where these ladies all engage in a rough bout of pillow fighting before falling into some mud.'
'Whereupon the remains of their clothes fall off?' asks Dimitri.
'Well,' says Loon, 'let's just see, shall we my lord? There might even be some rudely shaped vegetables, in the Fenwickian style.'
'Excellent, excellent,' nods Dimitri. He then pauses and frowns. 'It's odd, though Loon,' muses Dimitri. 'Why does so much about war in Mittelheim revolve around nudity and rudely shaped vegetables?'
Loon shrugs. 'It is, indeed, a mystery, my lord. There certainly does seem to be alot less of that sort of thing in Prussia. Anyway, to address ourselves to the battle report: it appears that the battle began like this .......'

Friday, 18 August 2017

Opportunity Flocks!

Being on his hands and knees bringing up his breakfast meant that our would-be poet wasn’t party to the countercharge of von Krütchwärmer’s Dragoons that saw off the remaining Gelderland horse (below).

Still groaning inconsolably Gangulphus also missed the menacing appearance of Gelderland Jägers who seemed poised to rush forward and wreak havoc with the tail end of the convoy but then another wave of nausea ensured he was unable to witness the stirring sight of the dragoons making pretty short work of them too.

Lightheaded, Gangulphus staggered to his feet and shakily began the sisyphean task of gathering his sheep into something approaching a flock. Just as he began to feel that he was getting somewhere they scattered yet again as he became aware of an ominous rumble. To his right across the fields a magnificent and terrifying sight hove into view as gaudily caparisoned Gelderland cavalry first trotted then cantered toward the head of the convoy where Fenwickian sergeants, red of face and loud of obscenity, desperately berated their men into some semblance of order with which to meet the onrush.

(Below) Our poet stood openmouthed at the magnificent, awful sight; surely nothing could stop the now galloping wall of horseflesh and metal from wreaking bloody death upon the hapless Imperial infantry?

 But Gangulphus had, unsurprisingly, overlooked the presence of Antondekk’s Jägers lining the hedge and despite their casual attitude to military discipline and personal hygiene their fire emptied a number of saddles as the cavalry swept past only to be met with a telling volley from the brown-pantalooned infantry to their front.

More saddles emptied, in fact enough that the Gelderlander cavalry decided that they weren’t really that interested in the convoy after all. As they departed the field the Fenwickians drew a sigh of relief, cleaned themselves up and Gangulphus began to ponder his own chances of making a similarly hasty retreat from the shepherding life when from behind came an ominous, loud and rasping shout of “You! Peasant! Get those bleedin’ sheep shifted sharpish!”

Sunday, 13 August 2017

From Sheared to Eternity!

From what Gangulphus could make of it from his brief acquaintance, military life seemed to consist of angry, shouty, red-faced men in various uniforms threatening to insert things ranging from boots to bayonets into him. Even as he considered that eternal truism of military life through the ages, he spied (below) another group of angry, shouty, red-faced men, this time on horses, approaching rapidly with the seeming intent to insert swords, many of them into himself and also into what, after three days, he was beginning to think of as “his” sheep. Gelderland hussars!

(Below) The Gelderlander hussars swept majestically from the hill, giving the Fenwickian dragoons scant time to react. The two dragoon squadrons formed line.

One squadron of enemy hussars was driven back but the other dealt with the Dragoons in short order and Gangulphus found himself (below), rake in hand deserted by his flocking sheep who’d bolted through the wagons and into the kitchen garden across the road.

Resigned to his fate the poor boy consoled himself that his breeches couldn’t smell any worse, and anyway he wouldn’t be around to make the comparison, when a sudden crashing volley from behind the hedge from the regular infantry served to drive the Gelderlanders back.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Get the Flock Outta Here!

After events at the battle of Putschdorf, we turn our attention, dear reader, to the goings-on in Grand Fenwick. Here, following the success of the forces of Gelderland in the storming of Fort Gertrude, we scrutinise now the Fenwickian attempts to strengthen the defences of Fort Pippin in the face of the looming threat from the armies of the Spasmodic Sanction ....

'A Rake's Progress'
(If 'progress' means being waved at the backsides of some sheep)

“You! Peasant!” Bawled a red-faced Fenwickian sergeant at a hapless looking fellow in a smock holding a rake. “Hmmm? Me, sir?” replied Gangulphus Schnittersplitte trying hard not to trip over the rake in his surprise. “Of course bleedin’ you, you bleedin' ‘orrible specimen! Get those bleedin’ sheep shifted sharpish or you’ll feel my bleedin’ boot so far up your bleedin’ jacksy you’ll be polishin’ it wiv your bleedin’ tonsils!” The words “I really shouldn’t be here you know” paused momentarily on the tip of Gangulphus’ tongue before retreating hastily as his brain took in the size of the sergeant’s feet. Instead he prodded hopefully at the sheep with his rake and said: “Get along there! Good sheep, erm, come by or something...” as the herd ambled it’s way a little further toward the waiting cooking pots of Fort Pippin some four miles up the road.

And he really shouldn’t have been there. Three days ago as an aspiring writer desperate to research the essential truth of Fenwickian peasant life Gangulphus had, in a fit of romanticism, exchanged clothes with a local shepherd. The next day he fell foul of Fenwick’s rather antiquated laws of serfdom when he not only failed to persuade the recalcitrant former shepherd to take back his smock and breeks, but was equally unable to convince the local authorities that he was anything but a peasant with ideas, some of them possibly dangerous, and all certainly well above his station. And now he found himself doing his best to shoo sheep up a dusty road as part of the Imperial attempt to strengthen the beleaguered garrison of Fort Pippin with a delivery of gunpowder, grain and fresh meat. The convoy of wagons was guarded by detachments of regular infantry at head and tail and flanked by further infantry and two squadrons of Pflöpwinckel’s Dragoons to the left whilst two platoons of Col Antondekk’s Jägers busily trampled the kitchen garden of the farm to the right of the column, scrumping turnips as they went.

'A field full of turnips.'
(Some of which are vegetables in the farm's garden.)

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Putschdorf, the Final!

In the battle of the flank movements, the Nabstrians are better positioned. (Below, at the top) Nabstrian musketry destroys one of the Rotenburg cavalry regiments; the musketeers then close up to the next in line, aiming their muskets at the horsemen's backs. In the musketry duel between the infantry, the Rotenburg fire fails to inflict significant damage, despite their notional capacity for lethal volleys.

Relentlessly, the Nabstrian attack presses on. Saxe-Peste has formed another line but it is now one unit thick – and the Nabstrians are still coming. (Below) Another Rotenburg cavalry unit routs. Rumpfler is now also able to bring more muskets to bear against the enemy infantry.

Nabstrian numbers and firepower are bound to make their presence felt. (Below) Nabstrian firepower, and dismal Rotenburg volleying, make the struggle an unequal one. A Rotenburg infantry battalion flees under enemy fire, leaving a gap in the line: is it the crack in a dam that is about to burst?
Saxe-Peste certainly thinks so…he has drunk such legendary quantities of Burgundy that his bladder is fit to burst – a bit like his army.

But Saxe-Peste isn’t finished yet. (Below) His infantry are now firing on the Nabstrian cavalry who sit mutely under fire, instead of bravely dashing themselves to pieces on the infantry’s bayonets.

(Above) But the damage inflicted upon the Nabstrian cavalry, alas, is not decisive. Nabstrian cavalry doctrine is at least specific on the importance in battle of facing towards the enemy! (Below)
Alas, Saxe-Peste’s gambit to draw the Nabstrian attention away to the centre of the field comes just too late. The relentless Nabstrian infantry have punched a whole clean through the Rotenburg flank, cutting down another fine Rotenburg cavalry and infantry regiment, and can now simply march down the open Rotenburg flank.

Like his bladder, Saxe-Peste's army has had enough! He has enough presence of mind to order a retreat for the latter before nipping off to relieve the former.  A close and hard-won battle... but in the end, Nabstria's general has won a decisive Nabstrian victory!

Hurrah for von Rumpfler!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Putschdorf, the Sixth!

But whilst the situation on the Rotenburg right flank looks increasingly precarious, Saxe-Peste still has plenty of fight left in him. If the Nabstrians can place pressure on the Rotenburg flank, so Saxe-Peste can do the same to Rumpfler!

(Above) The Rotenburg left flank infantry advances to take on the cavalry and light troops guarding the Nabstrian right. The Nabstrian hussars chafe at the bit. 'Let me charge!  Damn your eyes!  Let me charge!', shouts von Pfanenstiel. Rumpfler, however, is too experienced a soldier to allow his cavalry to throw themselves headlong into fresh enemy infantry.

Instead, (below) deciding not to waste time volleying, he maintains his aim - the crushing of the enemy flank. It is time to charge!

Badly disrupted, the isolated Rotenburg battalion succumbs to a bayonet attack by twice its number of Nabstrian troops. (Below) The Rotenburgers rout. And so, with much splashing and cursing, the Nabstrian infantry finally manage to clear the swamp – Rumpfler has held his nerve and his attack looks like it may regain its lost momentum!

As the brave Rotenburg flank guard finally succumbs to the pressure, the Nabstrian infantry begin to pour murderous fire onto the elite Rotenburg cavalry. (Below) 'We’re facing the wrong way!  We need to charge those scoundrels!' shouts the commander of Rotenburg's Honevell's Horse. Riders tumble to the ground.

(Below) Saxe-Peste holds his nerve, however. Pushing onwards with his remaining troops, he brings the enemy light troops and cavalry within range of his muskets. If the Nabstrians wish to volley into his cavalry, then Saxe-Peste can now reply against theirs!

Whilst the Rotenburg army's morale is now under threat, Saxe-Peste hopes that a little luck with his firing, and one more march to place his infantry on the flank of the Nabstrian lines, might just be able to pull his chestnuts out of the fire!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Putschdorf, the Fifth!

Volleys are exchanged. The fighting becomes desperate as Rumpfler attempts to crush the Rotenburg flank. Saxe-Peste's troops continue to resist, but their musketry fails at crucial moments to have a decisive effect. (Below) But what’s this? Under punishing Nabstrian volleys, a key Rotenburg unit breaks under the pressure, enabling the Nabstrians to close up…

Nevertheless, the Rotenburg troops continue to put in their fire. Both sides deliver lethal volleys against one another.

(Above) Then, after severe pounding, the lead Nabstrian unit breaks as well! But the concentration of Nabstrian troops at this point in the line means that there are plenty of other battalions behind. O’Leary’s mercenaries (in red) suddenly find themselves taking up the lead…

(Above, at the top) Taking a risky break from rallying his troops, Saxe-Peste continues to manoeuvre the rest of his line towards the Nabstrian forces. If they can move quickly enough, they may be able to bring themselves onto the flanks of the Nabstrian infantry, as well as bringing the enemy cavalry and artillery under musketry fire. But the situation is difficult. The previous loss of the infantry battalion has split the Rotenburg line into two portions, compounding Saxe-Peste's command and control difficulties.

(Above) Eventually, the Rotenburg unit in the swamp breaks and runs. (Below) The Rotenburg flank is now covered only by a single Rotenburg infantry regiment, and a considerable quantity of horses backsides.