Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Hednitz, the Second!

The shockingly rapid advance of the Nabstrian march columns causes consternation in General Herz van Rentall's headquarters. Indeed, if the atmosphere there were a piece of music then it would no doubt be entitled "Vulgarian Fugue in (What the) F Major." Rentall's second-in-command, Captain of Infantry Duke Walter von Neucheim bounces up and down in his saddle: 'It's all over! It's all over! We'll never win! We'll never win!'
'Hush now, shir,' says the Dutchman Rentall. 'Dare ish always optionsh.'
The field of Hednitz is rather deeper than many of the battlefields of the Wars of the Gelderland Succession. So deep, in fact, that the usual Nabstrian trick of advancing in column and then changing into line on the same turn cannot work; the infantry must stay in column in order to close the distance quickly. Whilst von Stumpe has been careful to keep his vulnerable columns out of range of a cavalry charge, the Vulgarian horse could still advance into close range of the columns, thus making it impossible for the Nabstrian infantry to keep moving in their current formation.

After some consideration, however, Rentall finally decides that he will not order his cavalry forwards. (Below) Releived, the Nabstrian infantry suddenly halt and change into line. There is some cursing from the Nabstrian NCOs and cries of 'That way, that way, you fools!' and 'Left! Left! It's written on your boot!' But still, to the discomfort of the watching Vulgarians, the Nabstrians soon present a line of gleaming bayonets to the waiting Vulgarian cavalry and infantry.

In the Vulgarian headquarters, there is some disagreement over what to do next.
'We're doomed! It's finished! Retreat! Flee!' is Duke Neicheim's considered advice to General Rentall.
'Gottle a geer! Gottle a geer!' adds Baron Tostov, solicitously.
'This is going to be a beautiful battle. We're going to make Vulgaria great again!' adds Ranald Drumpf, Principal Councillor to Prince Dimitri.
Rentall scowls, 'I thought dat I directed you to quit dish army,' he says. Drumpf arrived yesterday carrying instructions from the Prince. However, since the instructions seemed to focus mainly on the ways in which Dimitri was going to remove all of Rentall's clothes and cover him with kisses, it seemed likely that there had been a mix up and that the wrong instructions had been sent to the army. At least, Rentall hoped so. He was nevertheless philosophical: however perturbed he was at the thought of having Prince Dimitri 'nibbling his little toes' it was likely as nothing to the feelings of Dimitri's mistress, who would now be digesting her orders to attack the Nabstrian army forthwith.
Rentall gestures to his guards. 'Remove dish man!'
Drumpf shakes his fist, 'I am a personal friend of the Prince! I'll not leave! Why must I leave?'
'Becaush you are an unpleasant purveyor of liesh and untruthsh,' says Rentall, 'And also becaush your hair disturbsh me.'
Drumpf pats his hair and tickles its ears. 'There's nothing wrong with my hair. And I've done nothing that would disturb anyone!'
'Pah!' replies the general. 'What about de young women? Without any clothes on!'
'It's not true,' shouts Drumpf, 'fake nudes!'
'And de unpleasantness with de amphibians?' asks Rentall.
'Also not true,' says Drumpf, 'fake newts!'

(Above) As the Nabstrian infantry bear down upon the Vulgarian lines, Rentall finally discards the idea of a cavalry assault upon the infantry to his front, and instructs his horse to withdraw. The consequence, however, is that the Nabstrians continue to hold the initiative. As the cavalry withdraw, Stumpe's foot advance again, beginning to turn the flanks of the Vulgarian infantry and placing the Osterburg Cuirassiers within range of Nabstrian musketry (below).

On the Vulgarian right, however, so little is happening that one might mistake it for a Mittelheim artillery barrage. Rentall's irregulars are still in the woods, the infantry well camouflaged by the foliage. Colonel Kurtz peers into the distance with his telescope.
'Can you see anything sir?' asks Captain Kleinvarken.
'Oh, yes, captain: one thing looms large in my sight, blocking out almost everything else!'
'Foliage, sir?' answers the captain, 'A tree? Or perhaps you mean a rosy future?'
'I mean horror, Kleinvarken' says Kurtz morosely, 'pure, bowel whisking horror.'
'Yes, well I suspected that we might get there at some stage,' says Kleinvarken, 'But surely sir there are many reasons to be cheerful. There is no sign yet that we will be ordered to advance. Indeed, we are on the defence, so perhaps our role will be to leap on the enemy flanks as they advance past our position. And there are so many other advantages to our current situation,' he adds brightly. 'We're in the trees. But it's not Surinam. I mean, unlike 'Nam, it's pleasantly cool. There's lovely shade. And no cannibals. That surely has to count for something.'
'The horror is metaphysical, Kleinvarken.'
'Metaphysical horror?'
'A horror of being, of knowing, the whole ineffable strain of existing in, crikey - look at the hooters on her.'
'I think, sir, that that is a pair of squirrels on a tree.'
'Bah,' says Kurt. 'The horror ... but, what's that?'
'More horror, sir? Or trees. Or a kind of metaphysical tree horror?'
'No, no' replies Kurtz, 'There's a fellow in a wicker carriage. He seems to be heading in this direction clutching what looks to be a set of orders ....'

'A lovely carriage, Saxe; but who exactly is
driving it?'
'I said, Saxe' says Stumpe banging himself over the head with his telescope. 'I said not to give our orders to the Vulgarians. I told you to take my orders to von Pfanenstiel and that if it looked even remotely like the Vulgarians might capture them that you should in extremis eat the orders; whereas you ...'
'Gave the orders to the Vulgarians and then had something to eat with them,' admits the Marshal.
'In God's name, why did you not just do as I told you?' asks Stumpe incredulously.
'Well,' says Saxe, who has the good grace to look sheepish, 'I thought that you were being ironic.'
'Ironic?' says Stumpe, 'Ironic? No, when I say something like "I asked General Rentall for some help and he procured a lard wit like you:" that would be ironic. Just as if I said to you "Well done, Saxe, you've really helped" that would be sarcastic. Just as if I said "Oooh, Saxe - look!'
Saxe looks. Stumpe punches him hard in the face. ' ... that would be useful stress relief. Now bugger off! The enemy now has excellent military intelligence on our plans - they know of my capability for combined movement; and they know that there's something out there that's not marked on their maps.'

At Rentall's headquarters there is uproar. (Below) The Nabstrian infantry continue to move around the flanks of the Vulgarian infantry; and musketry fire scythes down the Osterburg Cuirassiers. It has become clear that there just seems to be too much to do at once. 'Cobblersh!' says Rentall. 'My army is in too many piecesh: wid my infantry split by my artillery into two positionsh, and wid my cavalry ash a third element, I have too many thingsh to do and not enough time to do dem.'

'My lord! My lord!' a Vulgarian irregular breathlessly interrupts Rentall's cogitation. 'A message from Colonel Kurtz sir! Here is a set of the Nabstrian orders!'
'Hurrah!' says Neucheim, 'But where did they come from!'
'A Nabstrian general gave them to us, sir, as well as some interesting recommendations for local taverns and bawdy houses.'
Neucheim examines the orders. As he reads, he frowns. 'My lord, what a fortuitous piece of military intelligence! This is the enemy plan! It would seem that the Nabstrians intend some 'combined movement.' Oh, and there is also something out there that isn't on our maps. But the latter, of course, goes without saying.'
'Really?' says Rentall, thoughtfully. 'Well, well, well. Becaush shome "combined movement" would seem to be de answer to our immediate problem. Excellent, let us shteal our adversary's idea! Gentlemen, wid dis combined movement I plan to counter-attack de exposed flank of de Nabstrian advance! Prepare de troops: we begin de assault in five minutes!'
To loud 'hurrahs!' and the obligatory 'gottle a geer!' the battle enters its next stage: a stage in which the metaphysical horror is not at all ironic ...

Sunday, 19 March 2017


Wherein the army of the Burgravate of Nabstria under 'General Hieronymous von Rumpfler' encounters the army of the Voivodate of Vulgaria, commanded by General Hertz van Rentall 

Captain Hugo von Stumpe mops his perspiring brow and surveys the field of battle. Dressed in Rumpfler's clothes, Stumpe also tries in his bearing to evince all of the General's most obvious mannerisms: his calmness; his experienced professionalism; his dislike of French cheeses; and his consuming lust for Nora Hindquarters - not an easy trick when one is just holding a telescope. Stumpe feels peculiarly alone. To avoid having the General's deception rumbled, Stumpe has banished the usual Nabstrian staff officers back to the headquarters tent, citing his desire to avoid them becoming casualties in the ensuing battle. The staff officers protest heavily in the usual Nabstrian fashion at being robbed of the chance to test their manhood in the heat of enemy fire, making such comments as: 'Thank goodness!', 'Suits me', and 'Wake me when it's all over.' Stumpe turns the telescope around and looks through the bigger end: but even with the Vulgarians now much further away he still feels uncertain.
'Well,' says Stumpe to the figure in the wicker carriage next to him, 'any way one looks at it, those Vulgarians don't seem to me to be an army on the brink of collapse.'
Next to him, Marshal Horace de Saxe brushes crumbs from the blanket that covers his legs and nods sagely.
'Well, my good fellow: I warned you,' he says to the "general."
Stumpe frowns. 'No you didn't, my good Saxe.'
Saxe shakes his head, 'I distinctly remember that as soon I arrived here I made the comment "those Vulgarians don't seem to me to be an army on the brink of collapse,"'
'No you didn't, my good Saxe,' replies Stumpe. 'What you said was "I'm hungry, get me some pie" and then "I'm not wearing any britches under this blanket - put your hand under and see."'
Stumpe returns to his survey of the Vulgarian lines.

(Right, bottom) The Vulgarian army seems to be well deployed and ready for battle. In the centre, and making use of Hednitz hill, the Vulgarian commander, General Herz van Rentall, has placed his artillery, under the command of Cameron von Muller. To the left of the hill are positioned three of the five Vulgarian infantry regiments; to the right are the remaining two regiments, including the Vulgarian foot guard. All three of the Vulgarian regular cavalry regiments are deployed on the extreme left of the line, two up and one behind in reserve. On the extreme right, in the woods, are the four irregular regiments, two of foot and two of horse.

In the woods themselves, the Vulgarian irregulars wait patiently. The Dutch mercenaries, Captain Kleinvarken and Colonel Kurtz, expect action soon and try to fortify the spirits of their troops.
'Steady, men,' cries Kleinvarken. 'Our adversaries are mere Nabstrians and should hold no terror for you. Do not fear death!'
'Indeed!' cries Kurtz, brushing aside Kleinvarken who seems to be making a respectful attempt, befitting a subordinate officer, to cover the Colonel's mouth. 'You should not fear death. There is no point. After all, life has no intrinsic meaning; no real value. Your lives - all our lives - have no significance or purpose in the great scheme of the universe. Life is just pain, and cruelty, and one's wife running off with a short Spaniard ...'
'Colonel, sir!' interjects Kleinvarken. 'I think that you should stop.'
'But I hadn't got to the really uplifting bits ...'
'Too much of a good thing, sir,' says Kleinvarken. 'You have the men dangerously fired up,' he continues, using his kerchief to mop the tears of a nearby soldier.
The noises now emanating from the Nabstrian camp indicate that the forces of the Burgravate are deploying for action!

(Left) Following the scheme of battle communicated to him the previous evening by General von Rumpfler, Stumpe places his entire regular infantry force into march columns on the right of his line. The Nabstrian plan is as obvious as a Mittelheim pun and only slightly less related to genitals. As Stumpe understands it, Rumpfler's plan of battle is to throw forward his infantry as fast as possible. Utilising the advantages of cadenced drill, the Nabstrian foot will then form line and advance quickly against the Vulgarian left. The troops should then be able to crush the Vulgarian regular horse with musketry and then, wheeling to the left, roll up the Vulgarian troops before the right wing of their army has a chance to intervene. Stumpe, however, is worried.
'The general's plan is a good one; but these Vulgarians look as if they have plenty of fight in them. Damn those Bachscuttel knaves - I sense that they have duped us!'
De Saxe stares down intently into his wicker carriage. Stumpe looks at him unhappily.
'Cease you navel gazing, sir! We are running out of time. Also, having seen the state of your navel, I cannot see that gazing at it will help us. Is there nothing in your accumulated military wisdom that might give us a further edge over our foes?'
The Marshal holds up a well-thumbed volume. 'I have here a copy of my famous tome Mes Gueules de Bois - "My Hangovers." It is full of military insight drawn from my own experiences in the field.'
Stumpe reaches forwards and, before de Saxe can stop him, the captain has pinched the book and begins leafing through it.
'Excellent', says the captain. 'Let's look for "strategems" in the index. Let's see - "str," "stra" - oh: here we go. Let me see: "straddling," "straighteners," "straight jacket," "stranded," "strangulation," "strapless," - "strapless?"
De Saxe shrugs - 'when in Rome.'

(Right) Meanwhile, to the left of the Nabstrian line, and chafing at the bit (or possibly it is just a bit of chafing), the Nabstrian cavalry are restless for a fight. The von Pfanenstiel hussars face their first action, and their Inhaber is hungry for glory! The Nabstrian artillery and two regiments of light troops hold the centre in case of a precipitous advance by the Vulgarian irregulars. Behind them, Stumpe continues his search for inspiration.
'Well,' he says to de Saxe, looking at the Marshal's memoirs, 'what about references to tactics? Here we go,' he says leafing further through the index. '"Tackle (see also Wedding)," "Tactless (see also Visit to French King)." De Saxe, exactly what sort of useful experience do you have that qualifies you as a military advisor?"
The Marshal looks aggrieved. 'Captain, I am well versed in the arts of superior military mental activity.'
Stumpe grimaces, 'I have a suspicion, sir, that much of your military activity could be labelled superiorly "mental." I mean, are there any references in your memoirs even to "war?" Indeed look,' he points at the index - "Wack," "Waddle," "Waffle (see also Waddle)," "Waggle (see also Wench)," "Wail (see also Wench, Prison, and Bribe)," "Waistline," "Walrus (see also Waffle and Waistline)," "Wantoness," "Warrant (see also Wantoness, Wench, France, Prison, Bribe and Flee)." Dammit, this is pointless.' Stumpe throws de Saxe's memoirs back into the wicker carriage.
De Saxe looks picqued, 'There is some very salient advice about elephants,' he says sniffily.

Stumpe shakes his head. 'Zounds, let's just get on with this and hope for the best.' As the rank-and-file of his army look on, "General von Rumpfler" signals for attention, and then gestures forwards with his hand. (Above) The Nabstrian musicians strike up a lively version of the traditional folk song 'I've Never Had My Hands on a Country Slice I Didn't Like' and the infantry columns advance forwards towards the Vulgarian line ....

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Eve of Battle!

'Stop wriggling, Stumpe: it's almost on.' General Hieronymous von Rumpfler, commander of the Nabstrian army finishes with the wig and then steps back and admires his handiwork. Captain Hugo von Stumpe, Rumpfler's aid-de-campe stands uncomfortably, dressed in one of the general's wigs and his second best uniform.
'Marvellous!' says Rumpfler. 'You could be my double!'
'But I don't understand, sir,' says Stumpe, 'why it is that you cannot command this army in the coming fray. Why must you quit the army on the eve of battle? And why must I wear one of your uniforms?'
'Captain, I have told you: I have urgent business elsewhere with the lovely Miss Nora Hindquarters. You will have to command in my place and pretend that you are me. But you should not fear - the coming battle will hardly be a battle at all. The Bachscuttlers have crushed the Vulgarian army already. Finishing them off will be as easy as stealing leech fricassee from a baby. And if there is any army suitable for an act of theft from a small infant, then it is my army.'
Stumpe pulls miserably at the throat of his coat. 'It doesn't fit very well.'
'Nonsense!' replies Rumpfler, 'It fits pefectly. Except that I should imagine that my britches are somewhat roomier around the crotch than you are used to. Now ... I explained my plan to you yesterday evening: you can remember the key details?'
'I think so, General, although I am very tired - I didn't manage to sleep much.' Poor Stumpe had spent the night tossing and turning; the former, in particular, had interrupted his rest.
Rumpfler chuckles. 'Those poor Palatinate fools. Imagine telling us that the Vulgarians were a shattered ruin and then warning us not to steal their glory.'

'But are you sure, my general, that the Vulgarians are really in such a poor state? Their picket line was sufficient yesterday to drive off our vanguard cavalry.'
Rumpfler now starts stuffing items into a moderately sized wicker hamper. 'Of course I'm sure, Stumpe. Calm yourself - the omens are excellent.'
Officer: 'Column of fours! Advance upon the
enemy pickets!'
Dragoon: 'Charge! Charge! For God and Nabstria!'
Another Dragoon: 'Am I the only one who thinks
that those Vulgarians look surprisingly
white and fluffy?'
'Well, sir, there was the black cat that crossed our army on the advance.'
'A single black cat, Stumpe.'
'Yes, but it was being carried by that old crone, who cackled madly, drew her finger across her throat, and told us that we were all going to die.'
'A single old women Stumpe.'
'Well, there were her two friends as well, sir. And the cauldron. And that stuff about curses, woods coming to Dunsinane, and prominent facial warts. And then they told us that we were all going to die.'
'Bored Vulgarian housefraus, Stumpe, with nothing better to do.'
'But it was during an unseasonable storm, if you recall sir; with the comet; and the two headed cow that laughed at us and told us that our operational planning process was fatally flawed.'
'That, Stumpe,' admits Rumpfler with a nod, 'was quite surprising.'
'You don't often see a two headed cow that talks,' replies Stumpe adjusting the crotch of the britches which is uncomfortably tight.
'No,' says Rumpfler, 'I mean that we haven't really got a formal process for the design of our campaigns. I just get a map and a quill, and ... improvise by drawing some arrows.'

Rumpfler curses and begins searching for something.
'God's wounds, Stumpe, you have to hold the fort while I'm away. I simply must see Miss Hindquarters. It may be my only chance before the campaign season begins in earnest. I must see her! Stumpe, you cannot know the urgent kiss of the burning flames of love.'
Stumpe shrugs. 'I don't know about that, sir. My wife did once set fire to me.'

Officer: 'Retreat! We are over-matched!'
Dragoon: 'Flee! Flee!'
Another Dragoon: 'They're everywhere! Game over, man!
Game over!'
Rumpfler continues his inexpert packing of the hamper. He has dismissed his valet and is as used to organising such things himself as he is to hunting truffles with a harpoon.
'Dammit, Stumpe, where's my best cutlery?'
'There sir.'
'Oh yes. I hope Nora appreciates this. Dammit, where's the fork?'
'I don't know, sir.'
'She'll need a fork'
Stumpe chokes. 'It would be impolitic of me to comment.'
'A fork, man: a fork. To eat with!'
'Oh, oh,' says Stumpe nodding.
Rumpfler gesticulates. 'What is she supposed to do - suck?'
'Again,' says Stumpe in a neutral tone, 'It would be impolitic of me ...'
'By all that is holy - where is it?'
'Baaaa! Oink!'
Stumpe closes his eyes and makes an effort to appear matter-of-fact. 'Sir, I understand that your business with Frau Hindquarters is important, but is it necessarily more important than the battle that we will be fighting on the morrow?'
Rumpfler straightens. 'Dammit Stumpe - tomorrow will be a small thing. The Bachscuttlers have crushed the Vulgarians. What remains huddled around those campfires that we see in the distance must be a broken remnant of their forces.' He allows himself a grim smile.
'In any case,' says the general. 'I have procured for you the help of one of the foremost military minds in Mittelheim.'
Stumpe looks confused. 'Why would I need a cow, sir?'
'No, no, Stumpe. I have engaged the services of Marshal Horace de Saxe - writer of the such famous top shelf military doctrine manuals as 'Manoeuvre Your Way to Fitness.'
'Horace de Saxe?' asks Stumpe.
'The very same,' replies the general.
'But,' says Stumpe, 'I really think that a cow would be more useful.'
'Bah!' says Rumpfler. 'Sit down,' he says, pushing Stumpe into the chair, 'and cease your bickering. It is decided.'
Stumpe whimpers.
'Pipe down, Stumpe' scoffs Rumpfler. 'Oh, my lovely Nora. The long miles between us. Stumpe, you cannot know the meaning of real pain.'
'I ... beg to... differ, sir. I think that I have found that fork.'