Friday, 26 June 2015


It is a rather chilly September morning. We are looking, dear reader, at the small village of Dammenblatz, a mere speck in eastern Gelderland, positioned athwart the main road to Gross Schnitzelring, the capital city of that Kingdom. To the west (right) and out of sight, are encamped the armies of Nabstria and Grand Fenwick, forming now their Combined Grand Army. To the east, hopes the Nabstrian commander, General Heironymous von Rumpfler, is the army of Saukopf-Bachscuttel - isolated, and ripe for a good plucking. The General waits at his headquarters for news - the Grand Army has sent forward  its scouts - two Fenwickian Freibattalion companies under Colonel Felix von Baumeister, and two regular companies from Nabstria under the command of Paul, Duke of Clarkeshire. Their orders are to conduct a reconnaissance of the area around Dammenblatz and to screen the Grand Army in its encampment. Also travelling with the Duke of Clarkeshire is Nora Hindquarters. Miss Hindquarters has tired of the challenges of camp life - the shouting and marching; the floggings; the sight of soldiers relieving themselves (and sometimes one another). It occurs now to Duke Paul that it is probably better if nothing untoward happens to General von Rumpfler's paramour, and so he ensures that she is positioned well-behind the troops in a place where she is very unlikely to come to any harm - this is, coincidentally, next to Duke Paul.

(Above, left) But - this is strange: because the first troops to arrive at Dammenblatz aren't those of the Combined Grand Army. Instead, the uniforms and the strange shambling march indicates that these troops are a screening force from both the Rotenburg and Bachscuttel armies: unknown to General von Rumpfler, the Wilhelmite forces too have conjoined their forces into what is now termed by them the Grand Combined Army! (Above, top) The Rotenburg troops are to the south. Commanded by Colonel Rheinhertz von Schillingspferde, mounted on his horse, Chestwig, the force consists of two companies - one of grenadiers and one of regulars. On the plus side, von Schillingspferde is an experienced officer, and his troops are drawn from that rarest of soldierly groups - elite Rotenburg infantry. On a less positive note, the Colonel is a health fanatic with an alcohol problem. His breakfast of fruit, porridge, and toast without butter, has, no doubt, left him well prepared physically to face the rigors of the coming battle, but the two pints of absinthe that he has washed it down with has also, sadly, left him functionally insane.

(Below) As his troops move rapidly to take up positions on the left flank, von Schillingspferde, gripped with alchoholic paranoia, gallops off madly to the front burbling insanely that he is being followed: which, as a commander of two companies of infantry, of course, he is.

The friendly locals: 'Get orf moi laaaand'.
(Below) To the north, and moving up on the right of the Rotenburgers, are three companies of troops from the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel. This force, commanded by Colonel Amadeus von Goethe-Nockenshoppes comprises of two companies of mercenary Croats, and one of freibattalion infantry. Nockenshoppes has with him his latest amour, the winsome Kurlandian, Lady Claudia Pantzov. As Nockenshoppes takes up a position in the middle of his troops, he remembers the briefing given earlier to him this morning by Prince Rupprecht:

'Colonel - here is your objective. Kill the enemy. I want two thirds of them dead. Not a corpse less.'
'That's, er, quite specific my lord. What about half-ish - that's quite a lot.'
'No - two thirds.'
Nockenshoppes scratches his head. 'Couldn't we just settle for an effect: crushing their cohesion, perhaps, or destroying their will to fight?'
Nockenshoppes' second in command nods his head vigorously, warming to theme: 'We could get inside their decision-cycle! Right inside it! Drive the enemy before us! Hear the lamentation of their womenfolk!'
Prince Rupprecht shakes his head.
'No. Two thirds. Any less then I shall account your foray a failure'.
'What about one less, my lord?'
'Two less?'
'Epic fail.'
Nockenshoppes shakes his head sadly and, having abased himself in the required fashion, exits the Prince's tent.

Now, Nockenshoppes advances gingerly with his troops. This isn't going to be an easy fight.

(Above, top). The Rotenburg grenadiers move to occupy a position behind the crest-line of the hill to their front. The regulars deploy into a field, covering the nearby woods. Colonel von Schillingspferde now rides randomly back through his own lines - just in time since (in the distance, in white) Duke Paul's Nabstrian regular troops have arrived on the field. A little to the left, and in front, can be espied the two companies of Fewickian freibattalion. (Above, bottom) Meanwhile the Bachscuttel troops move forward quickly; Nockenshoppes, utterly uninterested in having a fair fight, hopes to get his troops onto the flanks of the Nabstrians and shoot at them from an ungentlemanly distance.

(Above) The Rotenburg grenadiers move forward from behind the hill in a close order firing line and are able to loose a volley into the Nabstrian regulars. The Nabstrians are scythed down like wheat, cut to pieces by some superlative Rotenburg musketry. 'Hoorah!' shout the grenadiers; 'Eek, eek, wibble, my old man's a mushroom', comments Colonel Schillingspferde. More Nabstrians fall to musket fire from the Bachscuttel troops positioned on the Nabstrian left. The Nabstrians fire a ragged volley against the Bachscuttel irregulars but the latter are hidden in woods and are a considerable distance away. A few stray musket balls pass in the general vicinity of Colonel Nockenshoppes. The Colonel turns to converse with Lady Claudia:
'Could you move a little and stand in front of me, my dear.'
'But isn't zat vere ze firing is coming from, my love?'
'No. No. It's a trick of the acoustics - experienced soldiers know that the firing is usually coming from the opposite direction from the one from which one hears the noise.'
'Oooh, you are so brave.'
'Yes, I am. Now, you couldn't make yourself a bit wider, could you?'

(Below, top) Meanwhile, the Rotenburg regular company maintains its position, facing into the woods on the Nabstrian-Fenwickian right wing. While the battle seems generally to be going badly for the enemies of the Wilhelmites, on the Nabstrian right, things are beginning to look a little brighter, a comment that could never be used to describe Colonel von Schillingspferde. Howling not wholly plausible claims that he is being chased by naughty pixies, the Colonel rides Chestwig out from behind the Rotenburg lines and (below, bottom) gallops into a position directly in front of the Fenwickians.

As it turns out, given the lamentable firing of the Freibattalion, naughty pixies might indeed have been the most pressing threat to the Colonel's life. Still, in the end, and through a quite robust and very extended test of the power of the law of averages, the Colonel falls from his horse, and the Rotenburgers are suddenly leaderless. Worse, the second Fenwickian company begins to infiltrate forwards into the woods and engage the Rotenburg regulars This really doesn't go well for the latter - with irregular sharpshooters in woods versus regulars in a close firing line, one barely has the time to say 'General Braddock' before the Rotenburgers have lost half their force.

(Above) As the Rotenburg casualties mount, they conduct a desperate bayonet charge against the Fenwickian light troops, driving them back. But they cannot catch them. (Below) To their right, the Rotenburg grenadiers also attempt a charge against the other company of Fenwickian light troops - and this one does bring them to hand to hand combat! With bayonets fixed and all the benefits of their elite status, what could possibly go wrong for the Rotenburgers? As it turns out, mainly everything. 

In the savage tussle that follows, the grenadiers prove in hand to hand combat to be about as dangerous to the Fenwickians as a contingent of pacifist glove puppets. Before one can say 'you're having a laugh', the remains of the entire grenadier company are wiped out, and their banner falls into the mud.

Despite the grim pummeling handed out by them to the Rotenburg troops, things for the Nabstrians and Fenwickians nevertheless take a turn for the worse. (Above, bottom) Lining the woods, the Bachscuttel light troops have been sniping constantly against the Nabstrians, whose casualties mount. With few of them left, Duke Paul orders the remaining regulars to retire. (Above, centre) With the Rotenburgers falling back, Colonel Baumeister orders the Fenwickian light troops to move across the battlefield and take up a position against Bachscuttel's forces. But Bachscuttel fire cuts down Baumeisters lead troops. Moreover, the handful of remaining Rotenburgers move up ready to renew the fight: seeing that Baumeister is now isolated and can be targeted separately, they open fire on him - as the remainder of the Fenwickian troops advance to the Colonel's position, they hear a discharge of muskets and Baumeister gurgles and spins slowly to the ground. As his men crowd around, Baumeister tries to rally them:
'Men, I am shot: but my wound is for a higher purpose; for my Emperor, for God, and ... hey, that's my pocket-watch, put it back ... and those .... are my boots ... no ... leave least ... my...trousers... you...miserable ... thieving ..fu...' and with that, the Colonel expires.

The Duke of Clarkeshire surveys the field of combat. He cannot now achieve his mission - but he still has just over a third of his manpower left - with Colonel Shillingsferde shot, and Nora still alive, he could still spin this fight into a marginal success if he can avoid losing any more men. A consummate professional, he quickly gives the order for a measured retreat:  'Flee! Flee! Run for your lives! Scream like girls! Throw away your weapons! Sprint from this battlefield as quickly as possible!' (Below) With that, the remaining Fenwickian and Nabstrians begin an unmanly dash westwards. The remaining half company of Rotenburgers fix bayonets and charge forwards. Recovering the banner of the grenadiers they rush towards the enemy hoping for that one last shot that might break the enemy.

(Below) But it is not to be. As the Bachscuttel light troops, too, begin a hot pursuit, they cannot get near enough to inflict the last vital casualty. The remaining Nabstrians (below, right) survive the last two shots, before they scamper their way off the field of combat.

Later, as night falls, Prince Rupprecht is able to ride to Dammenblatz and survey the field of battle.
'How many of the enemy did you kill Colonel?'
Nockenshoppes makes an exaggerated display of counting on his fingers. 'Quite a lot, my lord. By weight, definitely two thirds: some of them were really fat.'
'Actually two thirds, Colonel?'
'Well, my lord, not in a strict numerical sense.'
'Then, Colonel, you have failed.'
'But they all ran off, my lord! And we hold the field of battle!'
'C'est la guerre', says the Prince. 'Ipso facto. Achtung minen', he says sagely.
Marking the precipitous Nabstrian/Fenwickian retreat is a long trail of paraphernalia thrown away in haste - muskets, tricornes, breeches, underpants ..... Rupprecht raises an eyebrow quizzically. Colonel Nockenshoppes nods slowly. 'Yes, my lord, they really do like to travel light when they withdraw.' Actually,' he muses,' some started stripping off before the retreat was sounded.'

Meanwhile, in his tent, Genenral von Rumpfler is in conversation with some of the Fenwickian light troops.
'We've captured the Rotenburg commanding officer, Sir, and brought him for interrogation. Lordy, he's heavy.'
Von Rumpfler nods. 'Yes, heavy, I can see that. And ... he seems to have more hooves than one would expect of a Colonel.'
The Fenwickians nod in agreement. 'Yes, my lord, that foxed us. As did the long tail and the saddle. But then a very helpful chap lying nearby told us that this was definitely the Rotenburg commander.'
'Hmmm', says the General. 'A nice fellow? Let me see: was he wearing the uniform of a Colonel in the Rotenburg army?'
'Well, yes my Lord. You know, I think that he was.'
'Was it in the colours of the Rotenburg army?'
'Well, my lord, now you come to mention it ...'
Behind him, a Nabstrian staff officer says in an accent used normally in the north of Britain: 'Ooooh, that's a bad miss.'

Even later, at the headquarters of Marshal Ignacio Grace a Dieu Cavandish, commander of the Army of Imperial Fenwick, the good Marshal is in conversation with Captain Fabius Nitzwitz, one of his staff officers.
'So', says the Marshal, 'the Nabstrians have sent us a prisoner?'
'The horse, my Lord?' says Nitzwitz.
'Yes', says the Marshal. He pauses, and then goes on. 'I know that I am probably going to regret asking this', he says, 'but did you get any useful information from the horse?'
'Yes, my lord.'
Nitzwitz shrugs: 'It's surprising what a sugar lump and a shoulder to cry on can yield. The horse was more perceptive than our own scouts. And much more well read.'
He lays out a map with a flourish and stabs his finger onto it. 'Both of the enemy armies are here, my lord.'
'Dammit', says Cavandish, 'They have effected a conjunture of their forces.'
'Ooooh,' says Nitzwitz, 'a conjuncture. Fancy that. That's bad for them. Really bad. Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery bad, yes it is. They'll be feeling quite deflated.'
'Conjuncture,' says the Marshal, 'not a puncture.'
Cavandish pauses a moment, deep in thought. Then, with sudden determination, he turns to Nitzwitz again. 'Captain, prepare the army. Contact General von Rumpfler. We march tomorrow at first light - we will bring the enemy to battle! The road to immortality awaits us! We must take it!'
'Excellent', says Nitzwitz, 'I'll make us up a hamper.'

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