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 .... ?


  1. Hurrah! As a Cavalry officer myself, I always like to hear tales of derring do and devil-may-care cavalry charges!

  2. This, sadly, is more a tale of daring don't and who-would-care.