Thursday, 20 June 2013


Wherein the army of the Burgraviate of Nabstria commanded by General Hieronymous von Rumpfler encounters the army of the Empire of Grand Fenwick under the command of Marshal Ignacio Grace-a-Dieu Cavandish.

     Late August, and the weather has turned unseasonally chilly. Shivering in the morning breeze, the Imperial army rouses itself from its bivouac near the village of Badschwerin and prepares once again to take the field. Their foes are the forces of Nabstria, commanded by General von Rumpfler. After their victory at Nottelbad, there is a spring in the Nabstrian step, and not all of it is down to captured stocks of leech brandy. Hoping to take the Imperial army by surprise, the Nabstrian army has forced marched into Gelderland by little-known forest tracks. The Nabstrians clear the line of Schoppenmoll ridge and force the Imperial army back to a new position at the hamlet of Badschwerin.

     But neither army is now in a good condition. The wily von Rumpfler has arranged for the surreptitious delivery to Fenwickian lines of items designed to strike directly at his enemy's Achilles heel: their tiresome attraction to double entendre. Von Rumpfler's subterfuge works with deadly and immediate effect: just the labels on the crate of Kurlandian codpieces ("The Imperator Codpiece - Twelve Inches of Imperial Purple") induces appalling attrition in the Fenwickian lines, as troops 'fnar' themselves into exhaustion. Many more Imperials expire completely at the sight of the box containing the large pair of melons; indeed, for some, even the word 'box' is too much. Once the chaos ceases, it is apparent that a full third of each of the Imperial units has been rendered hors de combat. Then a few more expire because the term 'hors' sounds rude too.

     Luckily for Marshal Cavandish things are no better in the Nabstrian camp. The Nabstrian army is suffering terrible logistic difficulties. The standard Nabstrian military pasties have all gone, thanks almost entirely to the greedy efforts of the Nabstrian Quartermaster, and gargantuan lard-bucket, Colonel Findus; a man who has, quite literally, eaten all the pies. Breaking out the stocks of Rotenburg comestibles captured after the battle of Nottelbad, it transpires that what were thought to be choice dried leeches are actually ready-to-eat slugs. The famished Nabstrian soldiery fill their tummies anyway, gulping down the unsavoury invertebrates by the handful. The effects are predictable, and a wave of illness strikes the Nabstrian army. Not only does von Rumpler have to cope with losing a third of his men; he must also watch in horror at the consequences of troops afflicted simultaneously by dystentery and violent hiccups.

     (Above) Cavandish manages to stay awake long enough to deploy his force. Careful to avoid any further entendre escapades, through the medium of mime he manages to anchor his left on the village of Badschwerin, which he occupies with two regiments of irregulars. His trained infantry he deploys in a single line, interspersed with his artillery. One cavalry regiment, conscripts, are on his left; his two trained cavalry regiments are on the right. Three regiments, all elite, are held in reserve march columns.

     (Above) Meanwhile, von Rumpfler assesses the situation and concludes that he will try for an all-out assault on his right flank (the Imperial left). All of his infantry are deployed into march columns: four regiments of cavalry will screen the advancing infantry from attack by the Imperial cavalry.

     (Below) The Nabstrian cavalry moves up quickly. Cavandish refuses his flank, and he then commits his reserve infantry (in white) to seal the remaining gap. His rightwing cavalry, though, are now outside of the main infantry line and outnumbered two to one. Led by Paul, Duke of Clarkeshire (below, right), the Nabstrian horse bear down on the Imperial cavalry. Clarkeshire's silly little hat inspires his troops magnificently: only a man with no fear would wear such a thing in public; a man who tweaks the nose of Terror and who blows raspberries in the face of Death.

     Realising that this situation requires all of his powers of concentration, Cavandish orders his aide-de-camp, Captain Nitzwitz, to strike him if he looks like nodding off. Eight minutes later, and reeling with concussion, the Marshal slides majestically from his horse onto the grass and assumes his normal supine battlefield position. Embarrassed, the Imperial headquarters pretend not to notice and deliver their reports to Cavandish's horse, Keith. Keith, at least, seems steely eyed and resolute; if his handwriting is less legible than his master's, his planning is certainly no worse.

     (Below) Charge! Three Nabstrian regiments (on the right) assault the Imperial cavalry. Death, wiping Clarkeshire's phlegm from his face, takes up a position behind the Fenwickian cavalry and sets to work. Putting their stirrups in, the Nabstrians defeat the Imperial horse, who fall back. Things look bleak for the Imperial cavalry, but in a splendid, and rather unexpected, demonstration of precision drill, the Imperial cavalry then about-turn and conduct a passage of the lines through their own infantry. Now the Nabstrian horse face a stern line of glinting steel.

     As seems usual at this point in a Mittelheim battle, a damaging bout of confusion afflicts one of the cavalry regiments. Surveying the forest of Imperial bayonets pointed in his direction, the commander of the elite Von Gank Horse mutters to his Lieutenant that 'attacking now would be bonkers'. Drowned by the din of battle, what the Lieutenant hears is the order to 'attack now with the bongos'. (Below) And so, the Von Gank horse charge forward in a hitherto-never-before-tried attempt to beat down an infantry line through the medium of experimental kettle-drumming.

     Unimpressed by this musical tomfoolery, the Imperials give the cavalry a well-deserved beating and the latter are now left isolated in front of the muskets of elite imperial infantry. (Below) Von Rumpfler considers his options: recalling the brave exploits of his mounted arm at the battle of Nottelbad, the General commits the remainder of his cavalry to a series of tremendous charges led by the Duke of Clarkeshire. Savage fighting ensues: but despite the ardour of Clarkeshire's assault, volley after volley of Imperial fire rakes the Nabstrian troops and the 'charges' dwindle into little more than shambolic military mincing.

'To me, men!', cries Clarkeshire, 'Hold you courage! Respect the power of my hat! Victory will be ours! See how the limp Fenwickians cower before us, mewling like children! Forward, and victory is assured!'

'Can it be so, sir?' cry his men.

'No, not really', says Clarkeshire, 'we're monumentally shafted'.

The Imperial infantry hold fast, and their volleys succeed in cutting the cavalry to pieces. Nabstrian casualties begin to tail off only because Death slips a disc and has to have a rest. Witnessing the terrible slaughter, the morale of the Nabstrian infantry dips lower than a pigmy limbo-dancer.

     (Below) Only a single Nabstrian cavalry regiment remains; then that, too, quits the field, intimidated by a small group of rabbits looking for trouble. Von Rumpler considers withdrawing. but he is made of sterner stuff: he is no namby-pamby, damp-eyed, nappy-wearing Bachscuttel guardsman. He commits his infantry to a decisive assault. Using their cadence step, the Nabstrian infantry hurry forward, and begin to form a firing line. The Imperial infantry cannot count, but Cavandish's aide-de-camp can and things now look hairier than a Fenwickian milkmaid: von Rumpfler will be able to bring six regiments to bear against only four Imperial units.

     (Below) Forming line, the Nabstrian soldiery advance into musket range. What follows is the most lamentable display of martial ineptitude since King Harold announced at the battle of Hastings: 'Oooh, they've fired some arrows; let me have a look.' Volleys are stolen; fire is made deadly; tactics; stratagems; clever wheezes; impish japes; they are all used with abandon by both sides but to no real effect. Worse volley fire may well have been seen, but not by reliable witnesses. So like a farce is the exchange of musketry that it might just as well have some musical accompaniement and an interval for the imbibing of light refreshments. Death looks on in bemusement: finding his missing disc, he pops it back in again and then nips off for a cup of tea. In the end, however, even Mittelheim military incompetence cannot escape the power of the law of averages: with groans, many of surprise, soldiers on both sides begin to fall to volley fire.

     (Above, right) For a brief moment, the Imperial line trembles. On the Nabstrian right, musketry crashes into the nearest Imperial battery, crewed, thanks to personnel shortages, by some dodgy Zentan sock merchants. One of the elite Imperial infantry at the far end of the line (white flag) also teeters on the brink of fleeing: an event that would expose the Imperial cavalry behind and unlock the whole Fenwickian position. With the Nabstrians piling pressure on Keith the horse, and Keith piling manure on the comatose form of Marshal Cavandish, could it be that Grand Fenwick is slipping inexorably into the jaws of defeat?

     Alas for Rumpfler: there is no decisive breakthrough, and the jaws of defeat cough the Fenwickians up again. The Zentan artillery crew are cut down, but no one liked them anyway; Fenwickian morale is barely affected. And the Imperial infantry quickly rallies. Death, meanwhile, regrets his cup of tea; it quite literally goes straight through him. Stepping out of the puddle, he hurries back into the fighting.


     The effect of the Nabstrian firing tails off, interfered with by some thick smoke. Then a crashing Imperial volley finally breaks one of the Nabstrian elite regiments (above, left). The hole is then filled by Nabstrian reserves, but by ordering this von Rumpfler is unable to rally his other troops. Another Imperial volley thunders out, and one more Nabstrian regiment collapses. The Nabstrian army's morale finally cracks. 'Woe!', cry the Nabstrian soldiers, 'Flee! Depart! Run away! Peg it!'.

     (Above) Heroically holding his army together, von Rumpfler marches his infantry off the field, screening his retreat with his irregulars.Von Rumpfler curses violently: his brief dalliance with the aggressive use of cavalry has been a chastening experience. Amongst his troops, the General's love of intemperate cavalry charges has now earned him the name 'Marshal Neigh' . Meanwhile, Nitzwitz gives his commanding officer some more hay, and arranges for Cavandish to be extricated from the manure duvet under which he rests serenely. Hurrah for Cavandish and Emperor George! Another victory for the immortals of Grand Fenwick!