Monday, 12 December 2016

Leipflute, the Second!

'We're being overwhelmed!' cries Captain von Schnitzelhund of the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel's von Schnitzelhund irregulars. 'They're everywhere, my lord Barry-Eylund: on our flanks; to our rear!'
General Barry-Eylund stares across the battlefield towards the Vulgarian forces and waves dismissively at the captain. 'Von Schnitzelhund, your struggles in the woods against the squirrels are the least of our worries.'
The captain, agitated, persists: 'But, sir, we need reinforcements - we cannot otherwise continue to hold the wood!'
General Barry-Eylund points to the left: 'Go back to your troops, captain, and obey your orders: remember - death before dishonour!'
Von Schntizelhund's shoulders sag: 'Yes sir. Death. Dishonour.' He trudges westwards back to the woods and the garrison of two irregular regiments.
Major Bohner watches him disappear. 'Shall I prepare to reinforce the woods, sir?'
'Dammit no!' replies the general. 'I shall reinforce that wing only under very specific conditions.'
Bohner nods. 'These being, my lord?'
'Well,' replies Barry-Eylund, 'the first requirement would be a heavy frost in Hell.'
'Ah. I see sir,' says the major.
'Indeed, Bohner. Let me be quite specific. I care not if my light troops are overwhelmed. I care not, frankly, if they are overwhelmed; shot; cut heavily with the sabres of some very angry and inventive hussars; and then captured by some squirrels who get medieval on their nuts.'
'Yes, sir; I see sir.'
'Bohner, there are two reasons for my lack of concern. First, any attack on those light troops by the enemy would likely have as its purpose the drawing out of my reserves. The enemy regular cavalry are on the other flank and it is that flank upon which the main enemy strike is likely to fall. Second, and here I must confess to a measure of unprofessionalism, I just don't like them.'
Bohner nods slowly. 'I see sir. They are indeed difficult to love, it is true.'
'Bohner, I've had attacks of piles that I'd miss less than those irregulars.'
'Well, general, I'm sure they'd be buoyed up by the confidence that you have in them.'
Barry-Eylund shakes his head. 'Three campaigns I've dragged those floppy ne'er do wells around. And thus far their main successes have comprised the vigorous rummaging in ladies undergarments.'
The major nods. 'They are indeed, my lord, the very embodiment of Bachscuttel military heroism.'
Suddenly, drums and trumpets sound in the Vulgarian lines. Movement commences amongst the Vulgarian irregulars.
Barry-Eylund scans the distance with his telescope.
'Here they come,' murmurs Bohner ...

(Above) Eschewing a frontal advance by his regular infantry, the Vulgarian commander, General Herz van Rentall, determines instead upon a thrust to his right by his combined force of irregular foot and horse with the aim of clearing the woods of Bachscuttel's irregulars. Van Rentall himself advances with his light troops to ensure that they remain in fullest command. The Vulgarian light troops are commanded by two more Dutch mercenaries: a Captain Kleinvarken; and a Colonel Kurtz. Both Kleinvarken and Kurtz are very experienced officers having fought for many years in the jungles of Surinam. Leading repeated expeditions into the dark hinterlands of 'Nam, both have been involved in brutal fighting against the Marrons - cunning tribes composed of escaped slaves. Kurtz, however, has suffered particularly. Having got lost on one expedition somewhere in the heart of darkness, Kurtz was found later in the deep jungle having lost his troops, his hair, and his britches; and having acquired instead tattoos, nihilistic philosophy, and a tribe who worshipped him as a God. Kleinvarken was impressed, since Kurtz had only been missing for twenty minutes.

The Vulgarian irregular infantry advance directly upon the woods.Van Rentall, however, orders Kleinvarken to instruct Kurtz to swing the hussars to the right of the woods and to bring them thence upon the flank of the nearest Bachscuttel unit. The captain rides reluctantly towards Kurtz. There are two things in his military life that make Kleinvarken afraid: and both are Colonel Kurtz. One side of the colonel is deeply melancholic; prone to dark, blood-soaked introspection. The other side is much less jolly and manifests when he gets a bit depressed. When this side looks into the abyss; the abyss makes feeble excuses and shuffles off terrified. Indeed, there was something about Colonel Kurtz that disturbed even his Vulgarian soldiers: his grim silence, perhaps; the thousand yard stare; his habit of getting wildly drunk, and very naked, and of bashing his head against the side of buildings, and howling 'Death! Death! Death is coming for us all!' Ironically, this last comment was slightly less true for Kurtz than for others. Death, who had almost met Kurtz several times in Surinam, had become rather unnerved by the gloomy Dutchman and therefore turned out to be much less willing than he ought to have been actually to gather him in. This might have explained Kurtz's survival in face of some very close calls: of the seventeen musket armed Marrons who, when firing at him all simultaneously missed and instead shot one another; of the hatchet blow to Kurtz's face that bounced off one of his gold teeth; and the grand piano that fell on him from a considerable height just as he fell into a hole that was half an inch higher than he was tall.

Kleinvarken reaches the colonel. Kurtz turns slowly and says 'The horror! The horror!'
The captain grimaces - the colonel's mood doesn't seem especially sunny. 'Just to check colonel; is that horror, or Horace?'
'Horror,' replies Kurtz.
'Righto sir. But sir,' says Kleinvarken  trying to re-direct the colonel from his dark place,  'In addition, there are also butterflies, sir, and lovely blue skies.' He waves expansively towards the woods.
'Butterflies,' mutters Kurtz. 'Blue skies ...'
'Yes, yes,' says Kleinvarken encouragingly.
' ... and horror', murmurs Kurtz.

(Below) Van Rentall's plan seems to work. In the woods, Captain von Schnitzelhund directs the Palatinate's irregulars towards the enemy to their front. Suddenly, however, he hears a strange drumming sound. Horses! Curses! The captain now realises suddenly that the wily Vulgarians have flanked his troops.

Schnitzelhund climbs quickly onto a tree stump. Above the sound of musketry, he bellows 'This is your captain speaking! You are about to experience a certain amount of turbulence occasioned by the arrival on our flank of an enemy cavalry charge. Please adopt the brace position. If we need to move towards the exits from this wood, then do so in an orderly fashion, first removing any sharp objects from your body, such as enemy sabres or bayonets!' Suddenly, there is a wild crashing sound and gutteral Vulgarian war shouts - the Bachscuttlers are engulfed by the charging hussars! Despite Barry-Eylund's  fears, however, the Bachscuttel irregulars put up quite a fight. The hussars swirl around the woods doing great execution, but Schnitzelhund holds on, and the hussars withdraw to regroup. To the front, the Vulgarian troops are driven back!

(Below) As van Rentall concentrates on the fight in the woods, Barry-Eylund uses the efforts freed up by not giving a hoot about his irregulars to bombard the Vulgarian line. Despite its usual lamentable accuracy, over time one at least of the Vulgarian infantry regiments is left in considerable disorder.

(Above, at the bottom) As the Vulgarians make slow ground in the woods, Barry-Eylund finally is forced to pay attention to events there. He wheels his leftmost regiment to cover his flank. Smug bastard that he is, the general has made a teeny miscalculation, because the flank of this regiment is exposed now to enfilade fire from the Vulgarian artillery. As the fight in the wood pauses, van Rentall orders his artillery to exploit this mistake. The regiment takes some nasty hits before, cursing his weak grasp of geometry, Barry-Eylund is forced to retire the regiment slightly so that it is no longer exposed. This fiddling about over, the Vulgarian assault on the woods is renewed!

In the midst of the fighting in the woods, Kurtz stares around at the death and blood being ladled out by the continuing combat. He turns to the captain:  'I have seen horrors that you have not seen. Kleinvarken.'
'That's true sir; but then I did spend most of the first two years in Surinam with my eyes closed.'
Kurtz nods. 'That does explain why your shooting was quite random. And there was such a lot of it. The locals were wild.'
'Wild, sir?' replies Kleinvarken, 'they were bloody livid, what with us burning their villages and all.'

(Below) Finally, another charge by the Vulgarian hussars breaks one unit of the Bachscuttel irregulars. Van Rentall begins to marshal his light horsemen to exploit the gap in Barry-Eylund's flank. Barry-Eylund, however, has already realised the threat. Recognising that it is best not to have two regiments of enemy hussars buggering about in his rear areas, he orders one of his cavalry regiments from column into line and then seals the gap. However, having paid less attention than he might at the commencement of the battle to the positioning of his cavalry, the task of sealing this flank falls to his elite cuirassiers, troops that could probably find better employment: such as, say, if the enemy were just about to embark upon a major cavalry assault upon the other wing ....

With one regiment of Bachscuttel irregulars still in the woods, and with no prospect now of a breakthrough on this flank, Rentall quits the irregulars and rides post-haste to the other wing of his army. 'Now, Tripodi!' he shouts 'Charge with our cavalry! Crush da enemy!'

As the fighting on this part of the battlefield peters out, Colonel Kurtz turns to Kleinvarken again. 'I have seen horrors.'
'This is bad,' thinks the captain - Kurtz is heading again to his dark place.
'Well, yes sir; but there is some splendid scenery. And some lovely sunsets.'
'Yes, Kleinvarken: sunsets; and scenery; but also horrors. I've seen horrors .... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer.'
'Well, sir,' the captain replies, 'I don't think I used the word "murderer" sir: I think that I just pointed out that you might be a bit of a "glass half empty" fellow, sir.'
Kurtz continues: 'You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that ...'
'Well,' says Kleinvarken. 'I think I used the word "rest" rather than "kill" but ...'
'But you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means.'
'Words? No sir: but you did do those mimes, sir; they were quite, er, graphic.'
'Horror, Kleinvarken ... Horror has a face...'
'And some appendages, sir, if I remember your mime: that fall off a lot.'
'And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends.'
'But sir, wouldn't you just rather let them be friends with someone else, sir? Or perhaps only be the sorts of friends that you see on birthdays or at Christmas?'
Kurtz shakes his head. 'You have to have men who are moral ... and at the same time who are able to utilise their primordial instincts to kill without feeling ... with passion ... without judgement. Without judgement! Because it's judgement that defeats us!'
'Troops without judgement, sir?' Kleinvarken watches the von Schnitzelhund irregulars as they rout away rapidly. 'Well, Bachscuttel seems to have plenty of those.'

On the other flank, trumpets can be heard blowing. Four regiments of Vulgarian cavalry began to canter forwards. Through his telescope, Barry-Eylund sees the movement of the enemy horse and snorts loudly:
'Pah! There's no possible way that they can get themselves over that stream and onto our flank!'

1 comment:

  1. Ah, a fine report, sir, of modest manoeuvrings and lots of shifty, thieving irregulars beating each other up in a wood: typical day in Bachscuttel, if I'm not mistaken...