Friday, 16 August 2013


Wherein the army of the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel commanded by General Graf von Barry-Eylund encounters the forces of the Landgravate of Hesse-Rotenburg under the command of Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste.

     The final day of August. A gentle breeze blows across the idyllic countryside of Rotenburg, bringing with it the unmistakable aroma of dung and absinthe that portends the close proximity of Mittelheim armies. The Rotenburg village of Maushorgen is a hive of activity: to the frantic rythmn of regimental drums, Rotenburg soldiery form line of battle. To the south, across green fields, Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste can see through his spy-glass the assembled forces of Saukopf-Bachscuttel. As busy as a swarm of bees (assuming that the bees were a bit lazy and very hung over) the army of Graf Redmond von Barry-Eylund assembles itself for a singular contestation of martial aptitude; or, failing that, a battle.

(Below, the picture looks south) Behold, the urban sprawl that is Maushorgen! It is the north of the town that constitutes the key objective for the coming battle, for it contains a barn central to the functioning of the Rotenburg economy. In that building is stored three barrels of a secret seasoning vital to the flavouring of the Landgravate's dried leeches. Augustus, in truth, has stopped eating dried leeches on the basis that the barn, refered to on military maps as 'a primary military objective', is known to the locals as 'the water closet' and they seem much less keen than most Rotenburgers on leech fricasee. Still, strange after-taste or no, the barn must be defended. Having out-scouted the Bachscuttel forces, Augustus, the 'Safety Furst', has decided to remain on the defensive: since three of his infantry regiments consist of untrained conscripts he wishes to avoid putting them through any complex evolutions such as conducting a march attack, doing up their shoelaces, or going to the privy on their own.

(Above) Furst Augustus weighs his options. The barn is key and must be held, so the Landgravial Guard is deployed into it, ready to go into garrison as soon as the battle commences. Keen to give himself some offensive options, the Furst places three of his four cavalry on his right. Two regiments, both elite, are placed in march column formation: they stand ready to surge across the river and lay about the Bachscuttel troops with the sword. On his left, he places both artillery batteries, supported by one regiment. In the centre, four regiments are positioned: two in line, ready to move forward and line the wall, and two in march column as his reserve.

     For Barry-Eylund, the circumstances of battle seem propitious. Unlike its head of state, the Palatinate's army is well-balanced. Consisting entirely of properly disciplined troops, the Graf fancies his chances against the lumpen manure-flingers that comprise much of the Rotenburg army. The only fly in the Graf's ointment has been the unannounced arrival at his headquarters of his mother, the Dowager Duchess Hilda von Rinkelstockinge. Having already wasted much of the early morning convincing his mother that, yes, he is wearing a vest, and that, yes, he won't get into any carriages with strange men, the Graf has now been handed another pressure: the battle must be over before the Duchess calls the Graf in for his dinner.

(Below) The Graf orders his men into their battle lines. With virtually his entire army placed into march column, Barry-Eylund intends to concentrate his advance on his left wing: he hopes to cross the stream (top left), push back the Rotenburg cavalry and then concentrate as much fire as he can muster against the vital barn. If he can rustle up three or four regiments worth of continuous fire against the barn, then surely the garrison will be doomed.

(Below) Advance! With a loud 'Huzzah!'the Palatinate's march columns begin to deploy to the left. Eschewing the normal march practices of European armies, the Bachsuttle forces adopt a 'brigade conga,' the various columns following one another in a bewildering jig towards the bridge that crosses the stream on the Rotenburg right.

(Below) The first encounter! Before one can say 'lunatic cavalry charge across the stream', the action commences! Shaking out into line, Barry-Eylund's infantry advances towards the Rotenburg right and threatens the bridge. Jonathan, Earle of Bragge commands the elite Rotenburg cavalry on this wing: seeing the advancing Bachscuttel infantry, Bragge, feeling lucky, or possibly just stoned, orders his cavalry forward. In a fight as glorious as it is short, the horsemen are destroyed. Bragge, shot through the head as his horse plunges into the water, changes from notable to floatable, and his corpse drifts slowly down-stream.

'Hands up who thinks that this was a bad idea.'

(Below) Driving Augustus' cavalry before them, the Palatinate's infantry pushes forward. They begin to deploy to bring more fire to bear on the Rotenburg regiment covering the gap between the stream and the barn. Meanwhile (below top), the Rotenburg Landgravial Guard have been ordered to secure the barn itself. Composed of the blue-blooded scions of the noble houses of Hesse-Rotenburg, the Guard is as familar with securing a barn as it is with doing its own ironing. After a brief discussion, the troops decide to lock the barn and hide the key under the door mat: a rather longer discussion ensues as they then debate whether (a) to loophole the walls and stockpile ammunition and powder, or (b) to break out some scones and fill the afternoon with a few games of charades. Their eventual choice, it transpires, has two syllables and is not a book.

(Below) Barry-Eylund smiles grimly as his soldiers grind forwards. A series of infantry volleys and desperate cavalry charges results in the rout of the two remaining Rotenburg cavalry regiments on Augustus' right wing. Moreover, confusion over orders sends forward the Rotenburg regiment supporting the barn: raked by flanking fire it disintegrates. Augustus orders up his two reserve regiments (in march column) hoping to seal off the flank. Augustus is fearful: his reserve infantry is not of the best quality. Having cleared the jails and flophouses of Rotenburg in a desperate search for anything tall enough to sew into a uniform, what these troops know about soldiering could be written in capital letters on a very small envelope. Twice. Almost certainly, badgers would be more competent at drill, and undoubtedly better looking. (Below, right) Having cleared away the Landgravial Guard's supporting troops, the Graf begins to move up his firing line for the decisive musket duel against the garrison of the barn.

(Below, top) The Palatinate musketeers begin to target the barn with volley after volley of small-arms fire: thunderous roars belch from the infantry line; smoke billows across the battlefield. It then begins to occur to Barry-Eylund that there is a flaw in his plan - ensconced in the village, the Rotenburg Landgravial Guard are wedged in tighter than Landgrave Choldwig's loincloth. The Bachscuttel volleys are not without some effect: several garden gnomes have their rods shot off, and the barn is rendered into what a future purveyor of domestic dwellings might term 'a bit of a fixer upper'. But the only real crisis suffered by the garrison is an emerging shortage of clotted cream for their afternoon tea. A strange portent of gloom begins to steal over Graf Barry-Eylund; a feeling he has not experienced since April when he accidently sat on a rake.

(Above, foreground) The day wears on. As the Bachscuttel volleys fly uselessly into the barn, three Palatinate regiments, led by a unit of mercenaries (in blue) and deployed into brigade column, begin to push against the two Rotenburg reserve regiments protecting Augustus' rear. In what could be described as a 'clash of the Titans', (but only if the Titans in question were small, heavily asthmatic and frankly a bit rubbish at fighting) the mercenaries depatch the first of the Rotenburg units only to fall, in turn, to volleys from Augustus' remaining reserve regiment.

(Below) The battle reaches its critical point! The sun is beginning to set. From the stench that it beginning to assail the Graf's nostrils it is apparent that his dinner is likely soon to be ready. Both sides bring up reinforcements. Augustus orders his last cavalry regiment to move from the left wing and line the stream, supporting the single regiment that blocks the Bachscuttel advance. Barry-Eylund realises now that only boredom, or their death from old age, are ever likely to induce the Landgravial Guard to quit the barn: he gives up his attack on it and orders two regiments from his centre to cross the stream, creating a gigantic battering ram of flesh and steel. 'Advance! Advance!' cries Barry Eylund 'Rogues! Do you want to live forever! And more particularly, do you want hot tweezers applied to your dangly bits?'

(Above) 'Huzzah!' cry the Bachscuttel troops; 'Forward!' cry the officers; 'Eeeek!' cries Barry-Eylund, as confusion in their orders leads the third rank of the Bachscuttel column to advance through their own lines! Disorder abounds! The column's advance collapses in a cacophony of  'Get of my foot', 'Stop elbowing me' and 'Is this the way to the bar?'

(Below) Rotenburg volleys scythe down the Graf's air-headed infantryman. Two regiments are cut to pieces! The lengthening shadows and dismal cooking smells emanating from Duchess Rinkelstockinge's camp indicate that darkness has almost arrived. Only one last drama remains to be played out.

(Below) Confusion strikes Colonel Igor von Rustipumpe, the Inhaber of the remaining Rotenburg cavalry regiment, the 2nd Honevell Horse! Invigorated by his late afternoon libation of tea and mercury, von Rustipumpe orders a charge over the stream, through his own infantry and into the Milchfrau Lieb Garde; the latter stand behind a palisade of bristling steel bayonets, mouthing the words 'come and get it'. 'They'll never expect it', von Rustipumpe cackles madly. Deaf to the entreaties of his second-in-command that the enemy 'will never expect it' only because the charge is 'an act of pure squirrel-licking insanity', the Inhaber orders his men forward ...

The ensuing fight could be described as 'titanic' only in the sense that, after a slight bump against their adversaries, the cavalry sink without a trace. But it's not enough to save Barry-Eylund: as the sun begins to slip finally below the horizon, the morale of Augustus' army remains, like Landgrave Chlodwig himself, badly bent and yet still enough spirit remains to keep the troops on the battlefield.

(Below, right) 'Curses! Curses!' wails Barry-Eylund in mournful isolation. Struggling to see in the gathering gloom, the Graf reaches behind, calling for a spyglass. But now nothing is going right. 'Sir', squeaks his aide, 'that's not my telescope your holding'.

     Not only has the sun now set, but the Dowager Duchess calls loudly for Barry-Eylund, informing him that it's time to come in for his tea. Despite his protestations that he 'just needs to stay out for five more minutes', he is yanked from his headquarters by his ear. It is a disastrous result: the battle is lost; the war is lost; Maushorgen remains in Rotenburg hands; and it's sprouts for dinner.

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