Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Feuerwerken und Weihnachten am Schloss Schönburg

Herr von Braun's WhirlenFliegnRaketenMasjinen just prior to take off in the  Schloss Schönburg courtyard

Christmas Eve in Schloss Schönburg was proving...interesting. Duke Werther and his advisors had been invited to watch a new fangled device to move troops quickly to where they were needed. A certain Herr von Braun had pitched up at in Schönburg earlier that week, he was hustling his invention from minor state to minor state hoping to find a patron, or even a sponsor, or failing that a hot meal

"This invention" he had told the Duke and his advisors " is the answer to any small state's needs. You have limited troops, they cannot be everywhere at once, so what better than a device that can move them quickly to where they are needed"

"How does it work"

"Well, its all very complicated, perhaps we should discuss your particular req..."

Herr von Braun saw that the Duke was swinging his watch chain and decided a sales spiel was not the best tactic

"Well, its has a Steam Rotor, an Italian design from Galileo Industria, and eight rockets. You put the troops in it, light the top rockets, they fire and create lift off, they then ignite the second stage undermeath which sends the craft in the correct direction, and the steam rotor ensures it settles gently to earth, just where needed. The troops jump out and the enemy is routed!

"Jolly Good" said the Duke "Put the Watch in it and shoot it off to KlosterBad, if there's any accidents I'm sure the healing waters of the Spa would sort them out"

"Er..maybe a litle less ambition first time out" suggested Herr Minion

"Bah - alright. What should we shoot up? It needs to be man size to test the contraption"

"I know" said Herr Minion "Lets put all the full size wooden sculptures from the Nativity tableau in the town square into the thing. If it can land a three wise men, a virgin,  the baby Jesus, several angels and a dozen assorted animals it'll work  for our soldiers. Ther's nothing alive above their trouser belts anyway"

"Capital idea. Guards!"

And with that, the Guard ran into the town square, grabbed all the nativity tableau figures, stuck them in the WhirlenFliegen-machine, and the Duke and his advisors then stood back and waited expectantly as a proud Joseph beamed down from the machine.

"This is all, a bit....sudden...Herr Duke, stammered Herr von Braun. This requires preparation and careful...."

The Duke was whizzing his monocle round his finger

"Oh fie, von Braun - if it works, it will work. Fire it up, or we'll put you in it and do it ourselves"

The logic was inescapable. Nervously von Braun engaged the rotor gear on the steam engine, and as the blades started to whirl he lit the blue touchpaper on the rockets, and stood well back. The device rocked a bit from the rotor, then in a blast of smoke and flame it blasted off into the night sky, arcing gracefully over Schönburg, before exploding in a massive bang above the town. Bits of burning nativity figurines went everywhere, like a thousand roman candles in the sky. And just as that was dying down, the steam rotor ignited in a marvellous secondary explosion and arced down like a whirring dervish into the river..

Herr von Braun looked utterly dejected, the secondary rockets had not so much ignited as detonated. But the Duke and his entourage were applauding enthusiastically, and from the town was the sound of loud cheering.

"Perfekt, Herr von Braun" beamed the Duke "We haven't ever had fireworks here before, and now we have, and it has gone off with a bang!. We shall have it every year from now on, on Weihnachts, every noble Birtthday, during SeptemberFest and on Canaveral Day* - you will be our Master of Gunpowder and Fireworks"

"But I am an aeronautical scient".....von Braun caught himself. A Master of Gunpowder and Fireworks may have other "interests" and this place was a sinecure..."how much is the stipend, your Grace"

"Free lodgings, eleventy Thalers a month, dinners at the castle refectory and fresh tart on Sundays"

"I love Orange tart"

"Well, you go to the the town, and pick your own. They come in all colours these days and make a bloody great noise when they do so. I blame the East India Companies..."

And so it was settled.

Some fisherman on the Ang Strom were a bit disconcerted a few days later when they caught a large metal riveted fish in their nets. Once others heard what Herr von Braun had paid to get his boiler-fish back, the river fishermen were much exercised in trying to find similar, but apart from that, and the monks at KlosterBad thinking a comet had signalled that the Second Coming had in fact come, life at Schönburg flowed tranquilly on into the new year.

*Carnival. It's the local dialect.

Monday, 16 December 2013

How Graf Malthus came to Saxe-Märchen - Part I

Graf Malthus

The Saxe-Märchen contingent of the Corps de Vin was still watching the Hesse Hatlands for signs of Prussians, and life in the billets was agreeable albeit dull. They had protected the far north west flank of Soubise's army from a Prussian sortie in the summer, but that had been it. The great battle of Rossbach had been fought and lost, and the mass of the army had now retreated into winter quarters.

Young Werther was riding out with Graf Malthus as he inspected the dragoon piquets. "You're a Proper Saxon, aren't you" said Werther "What made you settle in Saxe-Märchen?"

"Ah, dot voss due to der Var off Ostrian Succession" said the Graf. "It iss a long story"

"We have lots of time" said Werther, who knew that the Graf would be in the saddle until nightfall and beyond. The piquet posts were to be inspected, and so every one would be, come rain, hail or hellfire.

"I tell you vot" said the Graf "I vill tell you now vere it begun. Ve voss falling back after der Ostrians hadt beaten us, I voss vith the Saxon cavalry in our army, undt ve fell back towards the French positions at some town or other. Howeffer, ve hadt not been zere more than a day or so ven news came in that an Ostrian army vidt Rossian support voss going to attack the town. The French vere fortifying it undt our force voss to move up to take some high groundt that French lights vere holdink, undt protect the right flank. Der Saxon cavalry voss in the second line on the left."

The Graf lit his pipe, a vessel the size of a cavalry horn

"In frondt of us voss a brigade comprised of the small Saxon duchies, Saxe-Märchen among them. They vere not ferry experienced, but i tink no von expected a big attack on the far left. Next thing ve knew howeffer, the Ostrians hadt launched a huge flank attack undt these amateurs ver in the firing line. Ve hadt to reinforce them, but also hadt to buy them time. You can giess vot that meant, eh?"

The Graf looked at Werther, one huge bushy eyebrow raised.

"Er...no" stammered Werther.

The Austrians assault the flank, Saxon cuirassiers (bottom of picture) put in a charge to delay them

"Der cavalry - dats uss  - voss ordered to charge. Ve didt. Ve hadt some impact at furst, but then der Ostrians regrouped undt mit bigger numners started to force us back. Ve retired, undt that turned into a rout. It voss eferyvun for demselfes. My shortest path voss to run for de Saxe-Märchen units undt try to get behindt them, undt I ledt my squadron at der gallop tovards them, but ve vere exhausted undt the Ostrians vere closing on us."

The Graf smiled, reminiscing

"Den your Grandfotter - der Oldt Duke, may he Rest in Peace - rides in frondt of uss, yells "follow me" undt leads us to der left, tovards der guns, and leads uss into a gap between der batteries, undt ve thundered through. The pursuing Ostrians hadt dere view obscured, so they didn't see der gunss until too late undt they vere nearly on them. Boom! Boom! Boom! You neffer seen Ostrians run avay faster!"

Saxon brigade including Saxe-Märchen troops hurries to deploy their guns as the last of the cavalry is thrown into the melee vs the Austrians 

"I see" said Werther - "but how does that explain anything"

"Patience yung Paduvan - vell, I saidt to der Oldt Duke, may he Rest in Peace - "You safed my life! I am foreffer in your debt" Undt the Oldt boy vinked undt said - "Ah, but now I order you to form up behindt us, so you can safe mine. I hear you are quite good at that! Der Austrians are alrady on der heights, aundt ve are goingk to retire soon - undt some cafalry to screen uss then vould be a lifesafer"

"But I still don't see....." started Werther

"Ah, look" said the Graf. "Dere is the next piquet station. Ve vill finish this story later"  and he spurred his horse towards a cold looking group of dragoons, huddled in their greatcoats on a windswept spinney.

(The overall battle report is over here)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

How the GrimmWald Jägers won their bagpipes

Among the reports on the increasing activity north of Saxe-Märchen came the report of strange goings on at a remote old Inn just over the Feeland borders. A company of the newly formed GrimmWald Jägers were sent to investigate in force. As they drew close, they saw some strange men wearing skirts. The Feelanders had always had a reputation for being a bit odd, but this was very odd. The Jägers approached, but as they did so one of the dressed-in-a-dress ones fired a shot at them. The Jägers, though inexperienced soldiers, were all sons of the backwoods and good shots and promptly fired back, dropping the shooter. This prompted a horde more of skirted ones to come storming out the Inn, who started shooting at the Jagers.

GrimmWald Jagers discover men in skirts in old Inn who want to shoot at them

No sooner had a firefight developed, than another bunch of troops, in light blue coats, erupted from around the ruined farmhouse and started shooting at the Jagers too.  The GrimmWald boys began to wonder whether joining the army was such a good idea, no matter how much pretty girls loved a uniform....

 Taking fire from ruined farmhouse...the Jagers are outflanked and in danger

The Jägers decided to retire into an enclosed animal pen, to get cover and some sort of barrier against the skirted ones, who were now clearly massing for a charge and making an unearthly din to boot. The Jägers blew their hunting horns for aid, sent off two of the youngers boys to get it and prepared to make a fighting retreat back to the woods to their rear - or sell their lives dearly

The Jägers retire into an enclosed pen, shooting at the skirted ones, who are massing for a charge

 However, just when things looked at their most grimm (boom boom) yet another bunch of men appeared, and with a crashing volley dropped a number of the enemy. The Jägers, mostly sons of woodsmen and hunters who had never been much farther from home than the dance hall at Muhle am Fluss were both extremely relieved, but also doubly nonplussed - who were all these people running around the wilder bits of the Feeland? A few wild horses and the odd mindering wastrel was it for these parts, usually.

Some crashing volleys from the newcomers send the enemy back into cover

The newcomers carried on their rapid advance towards the old Inn, signalling furiously that the Jagers should do the same. Old Wilhelm Tell, the Jäger company commander, ordered his men to fix bayonets and with a collective gulp, they vaulted the hedge and charged the men in skirts who made the wailing sound. Despite their fervent hopes, the wailing continued.

The GrimmWald Jägers charge with the bayonet

Their opponents however, proved very tough and fought back furiously - until the wailing sound changed, and they all hotfooted it away. The Jägers were exhausted and sank down where they stood. Their strange rescuers came up to the Inn. The Captain of the green clad rescuers had been badly wounded, but while he and the other wounded were being seen to, one of the unit's NCOs spoke enough German to make himself understood and came up to them.

"Who were they - and who are you" asked the Jagers, crowding round him, now more energised by the flow of beer from the Inn's barrels.

"I am Serjeant Roger de Lapin, of the Chasseurs de Fischer, d'Estrees Army of the North, of His Glorious Majesty Louis XV of France. You have just faced off and chased off Scottish highlanders, some of the toughest troops in the English army"

"What - those ones in skirts making an unearthly din? They were just a bunch of hairy girls" said one of the Jägers", braver now

"Don't be fooled by their skirts - they are mountain men, tough as old leather and harder than army biscuits". 

"And who were that other lot in light blue?" aasked another Jäger.

"Those were Hanoverian Legion Brittanique, we have been chasing them for several days, that's why we came here - they have some captive officers with them who we want back. But with our captain wounded we are going to have to stop while we sort him out. There is a squadron of our cavalry nearby, I'm sure they will ride here to the sound of the shooting, and they will have to carry on the chase. The enemy have clearly all being using this Inn as a sort of rendezvous HQ but have now scarpered. However, in their haste they have left some interesting documents. Now, who are you lot" said the NCO "You are clearly very experienced men, to be able to take on and beat the Scots like that"

"Um...we formed last month" said one of the Jägers. "This is our first fight" said another. "And if you lot hadn't showed up, it would have been our last" said one of the more thoughtful Jägers.

"Well now" said Serjeant de Lapin "Your first fight eh? Well, that was some fight you put up!"

"Of course we did" said Tell "We are from the GrimmWald, we may not know about soldiering, but we can all shoot an apple off your head at 50 paces. But still, you did come in the nick of time"

"What was that unearthly noise they made?" said another Jager. "It sounded like a mountain goat dangling by its nuts from a tree-fork* "

"Those were bagpipes, the Scots play them instead of drums and horns and trumpets. Look, they have left some here in their rush to get away..."

"How do they work....."

And that, dear reader, is why the GrimmWald Jägers play the bagpipes.

(Songs of Drums & Shakoes skirmish rules, c 500 pts each of the Jägers, 87th Highlanders, Chasseurs de Fischer and Clermont Prince, and 1st Bn Legion Brittanique. Rules work very well, we used their Napoleonic definitions of similar troops, worked fine).

*And the GrimmWalders would know, believe me....

Monday, 2 December 2013

GrimmWald Jagers commissioned

The newly commissioned Grimmwald Jagers (with Loden Green jackets) demonstrating their skills on the Schonberg firing range. 

"Sir! Sir! Great News from the GrimmWald!"

The Duke recognised one of the junior staff on the Forces Recruiting Team was running up to him. 

"What is it? Have they spotted the Great Stag of the BlauHohe again, and want another thousand Thalers to prepare a tourist centre and comemmorative beertankard run for NovemberFest* ?"

The Duke was cantankerous. Lady Sophia de Loren was still rejecting his advances, and had retreated for a few days solitary contemplation at KlosterBad Spa

"No Sir! The Recruiting Team have had great success, and have recruited about 500 young men from the GrimmWald! And as you know, they are all woodsmen, foresters and mountain men and are very handy with a gun...."

"Oh yes...er, good! Well, have Rumpelstiliskin & Co start making up more blue jackets".

"Ah...they also want their own uniform, too".

"Ye gods no - not more pink?"

"Er...No sir - they say they are real Jagers and therefore say they they must wear Loden Green jackets. And they have pulled their triccornes apart and inned one side of the brim to the hat**, and attached leaves to them. And they don't want to do any squarebashing."

"What! Insolence! We have always had Blue uniforms, and what's an army without squarebashing".

The Duke was about to explode when Herr Klinger minced in. The Duke was a bit dubious about him, but Schiller had appointed him as Head of Military Recruitment, said he had served in the last War and knew about fit men and training and uniforms and so on.

"Herr Duke" smoothed Herr Klinger "We have a a maaaarvellous opportunity here - these Grimmwald boys are all the sons of hunters and mountaineers so on, and very good shots. They are a bit rough, you know - not - ahem - as tame as our city boys and farm boys. Far better we use them as light infantry where their skills can come to the fore. And dressing ones Jagers in Green is just the thing these days. With black webbing too, should look veery contemporary and dashing, I must say...."

"Oh alright - but no pink!"

"No, no pink".

"Oh alright - commision them then. When will they parade in Schonberg"

"Oh Sir! They are Jagers - they don't parade! Perhaps a demonstration of sharp shooting in the capital wouldn't go amiss though - you know, shooting apples off people's heads and so on" 

"Good idea" roared the Duke "I'll pick the people to have apples on their heads right now!"

And off he went, whistling, and mentally composing a list all the people who would have apples shot off their heads. And if the jagers missed, well, too bad...

*We did say that time runs slow in Saxe-Märchen.....

** Imagi-Nations are great for using up odds and ends, like AWI British foot...