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.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Putschdorf, the Fourth!

March! March!  Into the Marsh! With a squelch and a splash the Nabstrians plunge straight into the bog! What is Rumpfler thinking?

Well, while the unit on the left flank fires on the retreating Rotenburg cavalry, Rumpfler is determined to keep his formation and simply exert inexorable pressure on the Rotenburgers.  He is sure that if he just keeps moving forward that he will be able to outflank and fire on the Rotenburgers, bringing overwhelming numbers to bear.

(Above) Saxe-Peste carefully manoeuvres his flank unit to cover his line.  With the Nabstrians splashing about in the marsh, they won’t be able to fire on his men. Since the Nabstrian infantry are packed into a narrow frontage, the Furst orders his own infantry forwards. A Rotenburg infantry battalion is pushed forwards to a point in front of the marsh that makes it impossible for the Nabstrian troops to clear the bog without also engaging the unit in combat (with all the disadvantages that that entals). The remainder of Saxe-Peste's infantry begin to manoeuvre with the eventual purpose of swinging onto the flank of the Nabstrian infantry.

(Above) But what’s this?  The Rotenburg unit in front of the marsh, instead of holding firm suffers a terrible bout of confusion and marches straight forwards into the boggy ground!  How could this have happened?  Saxe-Peste practically gave the order to the Colonel himself! Which might, of course, have been the root of the problem.

(Below) With the Nabstrians still floundering about in the marsh, Saxe-Peste orders up the rest of his infantry. Volleys begin to thunder across the field…

The Nabstrians certainly have the advantage in numbers – their battalions loom threateningly through the musket smoke – but those numbers mean nothing when the leading battalions are stuck in a swamp. Saxe-Peste's plan to block Rumpfler's advance seems to be working…

Friday, 30 June 2017

Putschdorf, the Third!

Sure enough, perhaps only a further minute goes past before Saxe-Peste’s plan is revealed….

The Nabstrian soldiery suddenly have to check their step: what's that in front of them?
 A messenger rides urgently back to Rumpfler's headquarters. 'Sir, sir,' he reports, 'there is a large, fetid, ill-smelling obstacle right in front of our advancing musketeers!'
'What!' roars Rumpfler. 'What in God's name is King Wilhelm doing in front of our troops?'
'No my lord,' replies the courier. 'It is a marsh - or at the least a very poorly maintained duckpond.'
‘I’m terribly sorry, sir’, says Captain von Stumpe, as the veins on von Rumpfler's forehead begin to bulge alarmingly. ‘It simply wasn’t on our maps!’ he explains. 'If only there were some cartographic method to mark them on our charts. Like scribbling on our maps a small picture of a marsh. But until we invent some solution, we seem doomed to repeat this calamity!' 
Von Rumpfler groans, and slaps his right hand onto his forehead (which has suddenly broken out with beads of sweat).  ‘Not this again!’, he cries.  ‘A swamp has ruined all my plans and hopes before!' von Rumpfler exclaims.  Yet the old campaigner isn’t beaten yet…

On the other side of the field, Saxe-Peste is chuckling away to himself…
‘Thought you could just march up and beat me, did you?,'  he says to no one in particular.  ‘Well, I’ve got news for you, Rumpy my old lad!  Once your floppy soldiers have gotten up to their knees in that swamp, they won’t be in any condition to beat my musketeers, do you hear me?!’
Saxe-Peste might be up to his eyes in Burgundy but he has a point.  Even Captain Wankrat begins to look at his commander in a different, more appreciative, light.  The unexpected swamp is bound to break up the Nabstrian formation, disrupt the onward march, and make the separate Nabstrian battalions vulnerable to defeat in detail through whatever Rotenburg counter-attack Saxe-Peste decides to muster.

‘Too much time cheating at those games of war, Rumpy me lad!  Thought you had me?  Looks like I’ll be having you!  Saxe-Peste shouts across the field.  Needless to say, his voice does not carry across to von Rumpfler, who is now busy issuing orders to his battalion commanders. Quickly, Nabstrian drill sergeants begin to enact those orders physically on the backs of the long-suffering troops. The Nabstrian infantry lines convulse, and Rumpflers troops begin to manoeuvre ....

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Putschdorf, the Second!

Tum, Tum, Tum,  tum-te-tum, Tum….the steady measured beat of the Nabstrian drummers can be heard from afar as they mark the time essential for the flawlessly executed march of the Nabstrian infantry.  Long, long hours of exercise on the parade ground (not to mention fearsome punishment for any man dull enough to drop out of step) have their reward on the field of battle.  The Nabstrian soldiers look like animated automatons as they march up in column – and then just as quickly use their cadenced step to change formation into line without missing a single step or beat.  Before Saxe-Peste or his army can react, the Nabstrian infantry are deployed in a three deep line and are now approaching the Rotenburg cavalry….

Yes, this doesn't look good for the Rotenburg cavalry

‘Should we charge them?’ Asks Colonel Fogelstein of Honevell’s Horse uncertainly.  ‘Well, sir, I don’t know, it does seem like a good idea….but we haven’t really got standing orders to charge unbroken infantry…’ replies his adjutant, equally uncertainly.  Fogelstein is well aware of the perils of charging an unbroken line of infantry that is marching towards you at a remarkably rapid pace but he certainly isn’t used to giving up ground voluntarily…

Just as Fogelstein has made up his mind to order the charge….an orderly gallops up.
‘Sir, sir, you are ordered to retire, sir.  Saxe-Peste has a cunning plan and he has an important mission for you and your men on the other side of the field’, the orderly relates breathlessly.
‘Well, damn his eyes, I’ve never heard such nonsense, We must ch-‘. Before the last word is out of his mouth, his adjutant sadly feels bound to remind him of “that letter” and it’s embarrassing contents which mean that he must, simply must follow a direct order…

With much cursing and fretful looks at the advancing Nabstrian soldiery, Fogelstein orders the retreat to be sounded – and where Honevell’s Horse lead, the rest of Rotenburg’s cavalry will follow.  Without a shot being fired, the Rotenburg cavalry begins to withdraw…

What a large and enticingly open space between the armies: hmmm, best
check our maps ,,,,,,

Von Rumpfler looks on admiringly as his well-drilled infantry continue their march.  He has discomfited his opponent and – within minutes – the Nabstrian battalions will have outflanked the Rotenburg line.  Then the thunder of Nabstrian lethal volleys will soon begin to roll and win the day!
Yet…to the now very anxious Captain Wankrat, Saxe-Peste seems remarkably unperturbed.  It could be that Saxe-Peste is confident or it could be that he has just drifted off into a Burgundy fuelled reverie.  Wankrat decides to risk asking a question: ‘Should we not react to this dastardly Nabstrian manoeuvre, General?

‘Mind your own bloody business, Wankrat!  I begin to grow tired of your constant interruptions!  Can’t a man have peace with his own thoughts on a day like today?!’  Saxe-Peste answers violently.  ‘Anyway’, he says with another leer, ‘they – and you – are about to learn of my cunning plan!’

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Putschdorf, the First!

Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under the command of General Heironynous von Rumpfler encounters the army of the Landgravate of Rotenburg commanded by Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste.

The reasons why the states of Nabstria and Rotenburg have developed an unreasoning hatred of each other are now lost in the mists of time.  Some say it dates back to pre-Roman times when the Nabstiri tribes were the terror of Gelderland.  Some say that the inhabitants of Nabstria suffered terribly at the hands of Rotenburg protestant zealots during the Thirty Years War. But others say that the beginning of the rift between the two states can be precisely dated to the visit by Choldwig III of Rotenburg to visit the newly married Burggrave and Burggravina of Nabstria in the heady days of peace in 1742.  It is said that the young Choldwig forgot all the manners so long drilled into his head by his long suffering tutor, Herr Docktor Schnoggesbor, and behaved not only boorishly but barbarously.  It is even rumoured that he ate every single Viennese pastry that had been created to celebrate his visit to the couple.  Whatever the truth of these rumours, one thing can be stated for certain.  Relations between Nabstria and Rotenburg have rarely been good but it has to be said that today they have descended to a level lower than a hedgehog’s nether regions.  The antipathy between the two states may have started as a personal matter between the Burggrave and Landgrave but it has grown, festered and is now shared by almost all the inhabitants of the two states. This has enabled itinerant bards and storytellers to make a good living by simply swapping the butt of their jokes and stories between a Nabstrian or a Rotenburger – depending on whether they are in the Landgravate or Burggravate.  (Most of these stories are low and crude like the most common one: “Have you heard about the Rotenburger/Nabstrian who walked into a tavern and…”)  The variations of such stories are endless but, woe betide the storyteller who forgets where he is and makes the wrong substitution.  Printers and woodcut artists in Gelderland are also able, at minimal expense, to produce a different Nabstrian or a Rotenburger edition with the substitution of a just a few words, guaranteeing higher sales and very good reviews amongst their readership.

Yet this general sense of antipathy reaches its highest form whenever the armies of the two states clash on the field of battle.  The fortunes of war have carried the Nabstrian Army deep into Gelderland, close to the borders of Rotenburg.  Soon, Saxe-Peste, with a heavy sense of destiny or perhaps just an oncoming case of dropsy, orders his army to strike at their enemy's vitals.  Just outside the small hamlet of Putschdorf, Furst Augustus Saxe-Peste, has drawn up the mighty Army of Hesse-Rotenburg, watching and waiting for the hated enemy to march straight into his trap….
Liberally supplied with his favourite Burgundy from his own special campaign cask (which travels with Saxe-Peste everywhere – one might almost say they were joined at the hip but it is less of a hipflask and more of a barrel), Saxe-Peste is confident of victory over the hated Nabstrians.  ‘We have fought these dogs on many an occasion, have we not?’ he says to no one in particular, although Captain Wankrat, his orderly tasked with the onerous task of ensuring his campaign cask never runs dry, is listening.  ‘Erm, yes, sir’ he hurriedly remembers to say.  ‘And on many occasions, we have chosen to assault the Nabstrian positions, have we not?’ Saxe-Peste continues with a serious expression.  ‘Erm, yes, sir’ Wankrat echoes.  ‘Well, this time, we shall deploy on an open field and meekly elect to defend while the damned Nabstrians waste their time with their fancy manoeuvres and foppish marches, … that damned von Rumpfler needs to be taught a lesson or two, with his uppity ways and his buxom mistress and his, …his, …his’  Saxe-Peste’s speech fades off into a silence yet fuelled by a pleasant haze of Burgundy.
‘Yes, but sir,’ Wankrat, with more urgency, presses his chief, ‘We have deployed for defence but what is your plan, sir’.  The Rotenburg army is indeed strongly deployed with its powerful force of four horse regiments on the right, with its infantry and guns anchored upon a low but formidable hill.  ‘Eh? What?, Ah, yes!  continues Saxe-Peste, ‘ So those damned Nabstrians will try their fancy manoeuvres, “ooh look at us, we can do cadence!”, mocks Saxe-Peste.  ‘But then, they’ll find out, oh yes they’ll learn that there’s something that isn’t on their effete, bloody useless Nabstrian maps!   Oh, yes, they’ll know then!  Says Saxe-Peste with a particularly unpleasant leer on his face…
‘And what’s that sir?’  Wankrat asks his commander.
‘Well, I’m not bloody telling you, am I?’  Says Saxe-Peste swaying a little unsteadily in his saddle.  ‘Bloody spies, everywhere – think I’m going to tell a bloody orderly my masterplan before a battle?  Now get off with you and find some more Burgundy, I think I’m going to need it today…’
Even as Saxe-Peste is having this not entirely coherent conversation, the Nabstrian Army marches into view…

The Rotenburg deployment: A long, long, thin line.
What could go wrong?
Meanwhile, von Rumpfler has a cunning plan of his own.  If his plan was a carpet, then it has to be said that it would be wearing a little thin by now.  As he gave the orders for the order of march of the Nabstrian Army, Hugo von Stumpe, his ADC, even had the temerity to question von Rumpfler’s judgement:
‘But sir, have we not attempted to use the oblique order on many occasions recently?  Asked von Stumpe.
‘Yes, yes,’ replied von Rumpfler, more than a little annoyed that von Stumpe was getting uppity.  ‘But the great, the marvellous point, von Stumpe, is that each time we have used the oblique order, we’ve used it against a different foe!  Unless our opponents have all been in correspondence – which I greatly doubt, those Rotenburgers don’t even know what a quill is for – we are quite safe to use the manoeuvre again!’, said von Rumpfler.  ‘And what’s more to the point, my dear von Stumpe, this time, I aim to add a variation’.
‘Oh really?’, asked von Stumpe, trying to remain interested.
‘’Yes!’ said von Rumpfler, with a note of excitement in his voice.  ‘This time we shall march our infantry against the famous Rotenburger cavalry!  They won’t dare charge our well drilled troops and we shall slowly but surely march them off the field.  Then, having outflanked the Rotenburg’s infantry, they won’t stand a chance – and voila! A Nabstrian victory, and then I can expect more honours and awards from the Burggrave!  I might even mention you in despatches, von Stumpe, as you know that I can’t actually reward you publicly for your, erm, recent services against the Vulgarians.  You do understand, don’t you, my dear von Stumpe?
‘Why of course sir’, says von Stumpe, snapping to attention.
And so the two commanders of these hated rivals have made their plans, and their troops are already in motion…battle will soon commence but who will snatch the laurels of victory?

The Nabstrian deployment: march columns. Again.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

That's not a pillow you're holding!

'It's alright, my lord Dimitri,' says the winsome courtesan, 'these sorts of failures happen to every monarch. We can just wait a while and try again.'
'No, we can't,' replies Dimitri sadly, rolling over in bed. 'We've tried twice to no great effect. Let us face up to the reality, Lola: I am a failure.'
'No, no, no,' says Lola Frumpe, the latest of the Prince's paramours. 'The failure is not yours, my lord. Surely, it is your army's. Two battles and two defeats! What, are you expected to fight the war yourself?'
Vulgarian statecraft: less diplomacy than one might
 expect; and quite a lot more nakedness
'It would be cheaper,' admits Prince Dimitri. 'But I am a lover, not a fighter. Battles seem so dangerous. And they would interfere,' he adds, rummaging under Lola's coverlets, 'with important matters of state.'
'I'm shtill here,' pipes up Vulgaria's Generalissimo, Hertz van Rentall, averting his eyes.
'Oh yes,' says the Prince, removing his hands quickly. 'That's right. You were reporting on the battle. So, to recap: we really didn't win at Hednitz?'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Not ash shuch, my lord. But, ash wid our lasht battle, our army did sheem to get better as a reshult of our defeat.'
Dimitri frowns. 'So ... as we lose, our army seems to improve?'
'It ish one of da conshequenshes of da depot shyshtem dat we have. And da Guard du Corps,' replies Rentall.
The Prince nods. 'So we're ... losing our way to victory?'
'Yesh, shir, in a manner of shpeaking I shuppose dat we are.'
'That doesn't sound quite right,' says Dimitri frowning. 'Wouldn't it be better to win sometimes? To ... win our way to victory?'

Lola begins to gesticulate. This has an interesting effect upon the coverlet that, as it is, struggles (and largely fails) to retain her modesty. Both of them. 'The fault, my lord, lies with the feeble lackwits that command your armies,' she opines, loudly.
'Shtill here,' says Rentall.
'And,' she continues, 'the pointless, pimple-brained, poodle-faced, planks that advise you.'
'I am also here, madam, 'says Count Arnim von Loon. 'Though I do appreciate the alliteration.'
Dimitri, ardently admiring Lola's modesties, suddenly wakes from his reverie. 'Well, quite, quite. But now: run along my little princess of pulchritude. For I fear that I cannot escape from some dull decision-making and such. Run along - and call in Drumpf when you leave; he is waiting outside.'
Loon groans audiably.
'Are you not an admirer of my Principal Councillor, von Loon,' asks Dimitri, sounding surprised.
Loon sighs. '"No" seems such an inadequate word, my lord.'
With a giggle and a curtsy, Lola retreats from the bedroom.
'What happened to that lovely red-headed wench, my lord?' asks Loon. 'Danila, or Daniela, or somesuch.'
'Ah, Daniela,' replies Dimitri, rapturously. 'The lovely Daniela. The lovely, bubbly, chubbly, rubbly, wubbly Daniela. Happy months. Yes, what a shame.' He sighs. 'She was just too close.'
'Ah yesh,' says Rentall sensitively. 'Too closhe. Unable, my lord, to open hershelf emotionally to you.'
'No, no,' says Dimitri. 'I mean too closely related.'
The slightly awkward silence is filled by the sound of the entry of Principal Councillor Ranald Drumpf.

Drumpf curtsies. 'Good news, my lord. As punishment for our two defeats in battle, I have sacked Lord Konstantin von Kutchenzink, Keeper of the Privy Privy.'
Loon bridles. 'But Kutchenzink has nothing to do with our defeats in battle. Actually, wasn't he investigating you for that newt thing?'
Drumpf scowls. 'No, no. These are lies put about by the liberal press.'
Rentall shakes his head. 'Dis is Vugaria. We don't have a presh.'
Loon interjects. 'Except that press for the britches. But I cannot vouch for its political views.'
'No press?' queries the Prince. 'But what about that special publication that I receive each month?'
'We import that for you, my lord,' replies Loon. 'From some quite particular sources.'
'Why don't we publish it here?' asks Dimitri.
Loon shrugs. 'Because even here, my lord, public decency laws prevent it.'
Dimitri looks puzzled. 'We have public decency laws?'
Loon nods. 'Not many, my lord, it's true. But those that we do have I think are quite specific about not allowing the things in the pamphlets that you are so fond of.'
'So where do we import such material from?' asks the Prince.
Loon says sotto voce, 'The Vatican, my lord.'
'Are dey exshpenshive?' asks Rentall with interest.
'Oh yes,' nods Loon. 'Of course. Because the subject matter means that the artists that make the woodcuts tend to go blind quite quickly.'
'Are dey a bit ... fruity?' asks the Dutchman.
'Like a banana, nestled between an especially fruity pair of melons.'
'What's a banana?' asks Dimitri.
'In truth, my lord,' replies Loon, 'I'm not entirely sure. But I had a long conversation about them some years ago with a merchant who had Caribbean interests. The details are rather hazy sir, but I distinctly remember that they were shaped in an amusingly rude fashion.'
'Like a turnip?'
'Quite probably.'

Dimitri yawns and waves his hands dismissively. 'Now, Rentall: you have delivered your report. We, and by that, of course, I mean you, must come up with a clever plan that will rescue the situation and allow me to retain my God-given position as Voivode of Vulgaria.'
Drumpf jumps up and down excitedly. 'Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'
'No, Drumpf,' replies Loon. 'We need an adroit, subtle plan.'
'I know!' replies Drumpf. 'We should build a wall and get them to pay for it!'
'No, Drumpf' says Loon. 'That is a silly plan. It will never work. It is madness. In fact, I suspect that a madman might reflect on your plan and say something like "Oooh, that's a bit unhinged that is."'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'Couldn't we get our enemies to give us money, and then build a wall with it?'
Loon's lips tighten. 'No, Drumpf. Because that is the same mad plan, but in a different order.'
'I know!' says Drumpf. 'What if we built the wall, and then billed the Spasmodic Sanction?'
Loon begins to shake. 'Drumpf, if you ask about that wall once more, then I'm going to take a hammer and I'm going to take some nails and I'm going to nail your feet to the floor - how does that sound?'
Loon turns to Prince Dimitri. 'My lord. Leaving aside the Principal Councillor's plan for a moment. I think that you will find that events are already moving. The Nabstrian army has withdrawn from our lands. Even now, it would seem that a force from the Landgravate of Rotenburg is about to launch an attack upon them. As for our forces, General Rentall here (Rentall nods) has discovered that an army from the Margravate of Badwurst-Wurstburp approaches the Voivodate. Our troops march tomorrow to do battle. See, my lord: soon the dice of battle will be thrown again. I am sure that, this time, they will roll double sixes and thus allow us to roll again.'
Dimitri nods, seemingly placated. Drumpf raises his hand.
Loon sighs. 'Councillor Drumpf, You seem to have a question.'
'Yes, Have you got a hammer?'
'No.' says Loon suspiciously.
'Have you got some nails?'
'No, not to hand.'
'So,' replies Drumpf, ''Can we build a wall and make the enemy pay for it? A big, beautiful wall?'

Monday, 22 May 2017

Fort Gertrude, the Final!


If asked, the great chroniclers of history no doubt would express their considerable enthusiasm for cavalry charges. In adding to a sweeping historical tableau drama, excitement, pathos, and a splendid set of sound effects, an energetic intervention by horsemen is rarely to be bettered. A lightning storm might perhaps be nearly as good; or a comet; or a wardrobe malfunction on the part of a particularly winsome heroine; or, if one were particularly lucky, some combination of all three accompanied by some unexpected bass drums and string instruments. But generally, it is always useful to have as the close to some great military encounter the thunder of hooves, the flickering of steel, and the mad cries of horsemen, as the arme blanche rides forwards, committed as the climactic act of battle. King Friedrich II's victory over the Franco-Imperial army at Rossbach in 1757, for example, was given the appropriate panache thanks to the efforts of Seydlitz's massed cavalry. The great victory over the Turks at Vienna in 1683 was elevated from a dour punch-up the highlights of which had been trenches, dysentery, and the desultory whacking of one another with blunt instruments, by the timely intervention of the splendid German, Austrian and Polish cavalry. And even further back in history, Alexander the Great's triumph at Gaugemela in 331BC would have been much less triumphant, and probably slower and a lot sweatier, without the conclusive intercession of his Companion cavalry.

No less interesting for the historian are those events that immediately precede the cavalry charge; especially the last words of the cavalry commander: the speech that sends his men into the jaws of Death; or, if not his jaws, then some other orifice that might be just as unpleasant in its own way. Seydlitz's speech, for example, was a model of its kind, conveying certainty as to the importance of what his men were about to do; specificity regarding the chances of honour, glory, and wealth; and a careful ambivalence regarding the actual danger likely to be faced. Jan Sobieski's speech at Vienna, too, generally is considered worth studying. Though often adjudged to lack something in terms of style (thanks in part to an off-colour story about a Turk, a grandmother, and a mix-up involving an aubergine) the Pole's words to his men still embodied a fine mix of poetic metaphors, classical allusions, and a bottom joke at the end to lighten the mood. Alexander's comments sadly have not been captured for posterity, since the the wailing of the Persians drowned out the voice of the King. Nevertheless, historians have marked him well for his expressive body movements, the imperious use of the single digit being accompanied by a suitably divine waggling of the torso.

'Dammit, sir: I tell you that I've had nothing
from the mini-bar.'
All of which is to indicate just how disappointed chroniclers of the battle at fort Gertrude might well be to hear the words of the Fenwickian cavalry commander, Colonel Karl Reichardt von Laud, as a messenger urgently attempts to get Laud's hussars out of their beds, into the saddle, and into the fight. Laud's reply to the urging of the Fenwickian courier indicate that the former might not fully understand the gravity of the situation facing the Imperial forces.
'But we haven't had our lunch yet,' he says to the staff officer, fiddling urgently as he tries to do up his britches.
The staff officer looks on in some discomfort. Laud looks down and realises that he isn't actually wearing any britches.
'I distinctly remember asking for a wake up call. And some croissants,' Laud says truculently.
'The enemy are everywhere!' babbles the staff officer. 'The battle is almost lost! Only your squadron of horse remain uncommitted. I am instructed to press upon you the urgent need for an immediate foray by your horsemen against the enemy holding the high ground on the crossroads.'
'And my croissants?' asks Laud.
'I received no direct orders relevant to your croissants,' admits the messenger. 'But I should surmise that, if the enemy are not driven from the crossroads, that your croissants will be taken by the Gelderland musketeers and your stay in these lodgings rendered much less agreeable to you.'
'They are not especially agreeable at the moment,' hurrumphs Laud. 'Indeed, there was not even a little chocolate on my coverlet last night. I may be a hussar, but I'm not a savage.'
Nevertheless, since it is clear that the courier will not leave until Laud obeys the orders, the colonel reluctantly has the assembly sounded and his cavalrymen begin to decamp from their beds.

Time passes however. To the increasing frustration of all of the Fenwickian commanders, the hussars fail the most immediate of their challenges: an extended series of encounters with the door handles to their house. Finally, with the Imperial commanders soiling themselves with frustration, Laud manages to assemble his squadron outside of their lodgings and prepares for the assault. The colonel is well enough educated to know that now is probably the time for some suitable words; the opportunity for immortality, or at least a substantial footnote in future accounts of this combat. He turns to his men and delivers a speech that he hopes will instill the necessary ardour into them. Sadly, his disquisition falls rather flat. Laud mixes up his historical references and delivers an address that has as its general theme a grandmother's hand gestures, a Turkish aubergine, and Alexander the Great's bottom. Alienated by the evident failure of their commander to moderate his elevated speech so that it can be comprehended by ordinary soldiery, Laud's troops murmur mutinously. Deciding not to reinforce failure, Laud finishes his speech abruptly, and signals for an advance at the trot. (Below) In a rather ragged clump, the squadron of hussars begin their advance upon the hill crowned with Gelderland musketeers.

The hussars break into a canter. From their position with the Fenwickian musketeers, Colonel von Klosterfluck, Captain von Wiffel and Sergeant Merkin can see through the musket smoke the bold advance of the Fenwickian cavalry.
'Bravo!' shouts Wiffel, and his men also take up the shout. 'Bravo! Forward! Forward!'
'How I should have liked to have been a cavalryman,' shouts Merkin above the hubbub. 'The glamour, the danger, the long-lie ins.'
'It is overrated,' replies Klosterfluck. 'One gets sore in unmentionable places; and then one's unmentionable places get sores. And one spends one's life being chased by dogs.'
'Dogs?' asks Wiffel.
'Oh yes,' shouts Klosterfluck. 'My dog was always chasing men on horseback. Until I stopped him.'
'How did you stop him - did you tie him up?' responds the sergeant.
'Oh no,' answers the colonel. 'I just took away his horse.'
Merkin's brow furrows as he tries to work this through. Before he reaches a conclusion, the Imperial musketeers shout excitedly 'Here they go!' 

'I can see an "F". a "U", a "C", and then I think ...
it's a bit small ... is that an "R"?'

(Above) The key moment in the battle has arrived. With a loud 'Huzzah!', Laud's hussars spur their horses into the gallop. 'Tally ho!' they cry, 'Tally ho! Charge! Charge!' The Gelderland defenders finally espy through the smoke the rapid advance of the enemy cavalry! Uncertainty strikes them! Having already fired at the Imperial infantry, the troops are unloaded! The cavalry are upon their flank! The Gelderlanders murmur with fear, like short nuns at a penguin shoot. Surely all that is required for a crushing Imperial victory is that Laud's cavalry should make the merest contact with the Gelderland line! The watching Fenwickians groan with disappointment. The cavalry charge has been launched too soon! The long distance is compounded by the hussars' poor eye sight (by reason of which they are known in the Imperial army as 'cataract cavalry'). Laud's charge falls a mere sabre's length short!

Much to Toplitz-Hande's relief, as the Fenwickian cavalry halt in confusion his infantry prove their mettle by reloading and firing, and then reloading and firing again. (Above) The hussars are driven back in disorder.
'Are cavalry charges supposed to go in that direction?' asks Merkin.
Seeing the retreat of their cavalry, the morale of the Imperial infantry sags, and they also fall back. Though Klosterfluck still has another two companies of musketeers, Toplitz-Hande's troops now have an unassailable position. It is clear to all that the battle is now over, and that all that the Imperial troops can do is to begin a retreat. Fort Gertrude is taken, and northern Fenwick is now cut off!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Fort Gertrude, the Third!

To the west, behind the fort, lies the second Gelderland objective: the crossroads. For this mission
the Bachscuttel and Gelderland troops under Colonel Adolphus von Toplitz-Hande have been specially chosen for the task. Of course, in the armies of Mittelheim 'specially chosen' simply means that the troops concerned didn't understand the mission quickly enough to desert beforehand. From the south arrive three companies of splendid red-coated Gelderland musketeers. They are supported by a company of jager, and (above) the three musketeer companies of Bachscuttel's newly-raised freibattalion von Goethe-Knockenshoppes. If the Gelderland regulars are the brave lions of the force, and the jagers the sly foxes; then the freibattalion are the hyenas, although hyenas would probably smell better and would certainly have superior drill and a firmer moral compass.
As the Gelderland force advances on the crossroads, from the west comes the first elements of the Fenwickian relief force (though quite what 'Fenwickian relief' actually entails is probably best left unexplored.) Two companies of Imperial Croats throw out a skirmish line, and (below) four companies of regulars follow. Their commander, Friedrich Oscar von Klosterfluck, seems rather dazed.

Under Klosterfluck's rather random direction, the Imperial musketeers drift into two separate forces. Whatever the officer's intent, the effect of his orders is exactly the opposite of whatever it is that is entailed by effective command and control. Two of his four companies march off confidently in a direction that may, at other times, have had some kind of sound rationale - if they were searching for an excellent site for a picnic, for example; or if they intended to avoid a particularly dangerous looking flock of geese. At this time, however, the movements of his troops are to the proper concentration of force what sanity is to the seeing of tiny invisible unicorns.
'This isn't working,' says Klosterfluck, peering blearily at the rapidly disappearing backs of half of his infantry force. 'What's happening sergeant?'

The nearby form of a Fenwickian sergeant named Merkin shrugs wearily. Merkin really hasn't that much enthusiasm for soldiering. He only joined the Imperial army in order to obtain a military rank; because in Fenwick, being known as Herr Merkin is dangerous, and probably illegal.
'Perhaps,' says Klosterfluck, 'the men don't fear me enough to execute my orders properly. I shall use my imperious, commanding voice,' he adds.
'It still seems to sound a lot like your normal voice, sir,' says Merkin.
'What about this,' says the officer, changing timbre.
'Again, sir,' says Merkin, 'like your normal voice; but perhaps just after you've sat on a snake.'
As he watches the fumbling manoeuvres of his troops, Klosterfluck holds his head in his hands. 'Tell me truthfully - am I a bad captain, Anton?' he says to the sergeant.
'My name is Walter, sir. And also, you are a colonel.'
'Dammit - really? You don't look like Walter.'
'No, sir: he probably does look different; but then again, this isn't actually your regiment, sir.'
'What? Then where am I supposed to be?'
'Well, sir. That seems to be in your hand a nearly empty bottle of absinthe. So I would say that you could be wherever you wanted to be.'
'Oh dear,' moans the colonel, and then adds, with growing trepidation, 'What time is it?'
'An hour before midday, sir.'
'Gads! I've lost eight hours!'
'On Wednesday, sir.'
'Two days and eight hours!' Klosterfluck pauses. 'And ... the year?'
'1757, sir.'
'Thank goodness!'
'Just joking, sir: it's 1759.'
'Bloody hell! My wife!'
'Expected at home, sir?'
'No, sergeant: at the church. Well,' sighs Klosterfluck, 'that was really quite some stag do.'

Trying to rescue something from the situation, Klosterfluck orders the two companies that he does have in hand to take up a position on the crossroads (right). The Croat skirmishers support them from the nearby woods. The colonel moves up and addresses the troops' commanding officer, a Captain von Wiffel.
'Captain,' says Klosterfluck, 'the plan is this - fire your muskets and defeat the enemy.'
Wiffel grimaces. 'Sir, that is a terrible plan. We're heavily outnumbered and in danger of being flanked. It isn't possible for there to be a worse plan than that plan that you've just told me.'
'Attacking them with spoons?' suggests Merkin helpfully.
Wiffel shakes he head. 'No, sergeant: that, at least, would have the benefit of surprise. This plan is madness.'
Klosterfluck looks hurt. 'Well, we could launch a bayonet charge.'
Wiffel hurrumphs. 'That's even worse, sir'.
'I return, sir,' interjects Merkin, 'to my suggestion about the spoons.'
Wiffel points to his men. 'We must retire, sir. As it stands, our chances of success are as small as a pixie's underpants; and our situation is just as tight.'

'Get on with it, captain,' growls Klosterfluck. 'I'm in no mood to be defied.'
Unwillingly, Wiffel issues the orders and his troops set to. (Above) The Imperial musketry inflicts heavy casualties upon the enemy freikorps, the lead company of which eventually is routed. However, the Gelderland commander, Colonel Adolphus von Toplitz-Hande, skilfully insinuates his regulars onto the dominating high ground, flanking the Fenwickians. From there, terrifying volleys lash the Imperial troops. Even the Croats, not known for their sensitivity, begin to feel sorry for the Imperial musketeers and shoot one of the enemy jager just to help. Still heavily outnumbered, the Imperial position seems in danger of collapse.

With the battle slipping inexorably from the Imperial grasp, messages are quickly sent to order up a squadron of von Laud's Imperial hussars. Because what situation can't be improved by the sudden application of a cavalry charge .... ?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fort Gertrude, the Second!

Act II

The assault column breaks into three elements. Orders are shouted, and the grenadiers wheel to the right. To cries of 'Attack!' and 'What did he say? Does anyone here speak German?'' the Bachscuttelers reach into their haversacks and hurl their grenades, and many also their bagged lunch. (Below) Then, with bayonets fixed, they assault the bastion to their front. In the meantime, the musketeers divide into two columns and attempt to cross the Fenwickian earthworks further along the line. The grenadiers initially are driven back, but their superior quality allows them to reform and attack again. In the fort itself, Captain Dreihumpe attempts to get his artillery crew to man their piece, on the reasonable basis that the lack of a cannon is likely to reduce the damage caused by the fort's artillery fire. Grumbling, the artillerymen shuffle forwards with all the enthusiasm of men invited to sit upon an exploding commode.

'Bah - they're throwing grenades; and also, who has
gherkins with their lunch?'

(Below) After a desperate fight, the Bachscuttel grenadiers drive back the defending Fenwickians. The latter fall back, yielding the bastion to the attackers. The attackers haul themselves over the undulating bulk of the bastion, a task as exhausting as trying to turn over King Wilhelm in bed when he's snoring. The Fenwickian artillerymen have continued their excruciatingly slow journey to their gun, slowed, no doubt, by discussion of vexing philosophical questions and also by their pathological fear of violence (especially when it looks like it's going to be inflicted upon them.)

(Below) The grenadiers maintain their momentum and charge again, driving their adversaries into the fort. Meanwhile, the columns of Gelderland musketeers swarm across the walls. One lead company makes a daring attack on the artillerymen. The artillerymen make an attempt to withdraw but, in keeping with the general tone of the Fenwickian performance thus far, Lady Luck not only laughs at them, but also gives them a particularly painful wedgie. The artillerymen are caught fleeing, and, without their cannon, are forced to try and hold off the Gelderland bayonets with whatever weapons are to hand. An exploding commode actually would likely be more dangerous to the enemy than the bratwursts that they wave timidly at the advancing Gelderland infantry. The one-sided nature of the ensuing combat demonstrates conclusively why it is that artillery perform best when they are actually equipped with cannon.

(Below) After another vigorous bout of fisticuffs, the grenadiers succeed yet again in defeating the garrison musketeers. The Fenwickians retire in a state of dazed confusion as serious as if they had been subject to some variety of surprise trigonometry examination. The callow fellows rout  into another bastion, seeking the nearest sedan chair that will take them away from this battle. The exhausted grenadiers give a rousing cheer, surveying that particular kind of military aftermath that comes when tightly packed enemy bodies are subjected to an attack by sharp bayonets, exploding grenades, and unadventurous packed lunches. The grenadiers have covered themselves in glory - if glory, that is, is made up primarily of intestines, brain matter, and exploded cheese sandwiches.

(Below) Now, only Captain Dreihumpe remains to resist the Gelderland interlopers, and the latter push forwards intent upon laying their hands upon him. Dreihumpe, though, is no mewling poltroon; honour, bravery, and and a large measure of really poor judgement cause him to continue his resistance to the last. Calmly, he targets the approaching mass of enemy musketeers and fires: a musketeer spins to the ground with a groan. The Gelderlanders halt, unsure. The shot, bizarrely, appears to have emanated from the area of the captain's groin. The troops waver, their limited imaginations conjuring all kinds of unpleasantness - what if all of the captain's appendages are as deadly accurate with a firearm? And, given that he appears to be deadly with unexpectedly random parts of his anatomy, what might happen when he actually fires a pistol with his hands?

'An excellent weapon, captain.'

One of the musketeers, braver than most (and also consequently the least popular), stands forth and challenges Dreihumpe.
'Come not between a Gelderland soldier and his prey,' he says, 'or he will take thee in thy place and carry thee to the houses of lamentation which, if they aren't quite as frightening on the name suggests, are still enough to put the willies up you. Sorry, I mean "thee"; or "thy." Or whatever.'
'No,' replies Dreihumpe, stoutly. 'Here I stand and here I shall remain - none shall pass!'
The musketeer looks confused. 'But there are no nuns here. Why the special focus on nuns?'
'I don't know,' says another. 'Perhaps he had a bad experience with one?'
'Or perhaps, ' adds another, 'it's actually penguins that he doesn't like but he just confuses them with nuns?'
'That's probably it,' they nod. Ignoring Dreihumpe's protests, they surge forwards. Before the captain can reload whatever part of his body he intends to fire next, he is bundled the ground and captured. The fort is taken!

At this point, dear reader, it is as well to shift our contemplation of the battle from the fort towards the nearby crossroads: there, the Empire of Fenwick's schitzkrieg reaches new lows ...