Sunday, 3 December 2017

The German Peasant War

Some time ago, I had the idea to branch into and replay some of the scenarios of the German Peasant War (1524 - 1525). I read a little about it and soon it became clear, that most of the major contacts were (due to lack of organisation and some naivety on the side of the rebels) very lopsided affairs, unworthy the attention or the trust to entertain a whole evening of wargaming.

But then it came to me that they indeed were a formidable a threat to the Swabian  League, and indeed to the Empire and that it wasn‘t so much the classical confrontation, but the widespread threat of these wild mobs and the possibility of guerrilla warfare that it posed. (Much to the likes of the American War of Independence‘s "Hinterland" affairs, Frontier wars ... and again what some might call le petite guerre.)

Just imagine the Truchsess trying to uphold power and order while most of the available Landsknechts and the fighting nobility is busy fighting the Pavia campaign in Italy! Yes, the Peasants are unorganised, but they had and did liase with some "robber" knights and payed Landsknechts as well. Most (in-)famous with the Götz of Berlichingen.

So this brings a range of possibilities, guerrilla warfare in woods and swamps (in Northern Germany the famous Black horde were defeated once by peasants in a swampy area). Negotiations that delay the start of a major conflict and the fighting for "neutral" Robber barons and their contingents of man-at-arms. And maybe once in a while a Peasant generalissimo might prove its worth and surprise us wth our common mis-understanding that these were just neglect able peasant mobs that will flee at the first shot of a cannon.

And this brings of course a rationale to paint some bloody upset peasantry!

Special scenario rules:

The rebelious “Rotten” (Mobs) of the peasants are gathering next to the litte village of Vlissingen which is due to its stout Burghermeister and his Landsknechts  in favour of the Swabian League (Schwaebischer Bund). The Whole valley is surrounded by rebellious peasant mobs and in uprising.

To the rescue all the way from Ulm was sent: Georg, Truchsess von Waldburg who has brought with him a train of mercenaries and guns and an exceprional hatred of the peasants. He gained a name and a reputation as the “Bauernjoerg” which can be roughly translated as the “peasant strangler”. 

Times are dire, all the best soldiers are in Northern Italy, cannons are far and few not to mention Landsknechte who are willing to fight. All costs money, and both parties don‘t have it.

Each commander plus one unit can negotiate in a location of ,  or , while negotiations are going on, there cannot be hostilities within a 30” radius around it (the village or the points). Each party is/can negotiate for the “neutral” mercenaries at the 4 corners and at 3 (Goetz v. Berlichingen and his retinue) who ever is successful gets the units/commander in his army on his side. Or can negotiate in the village (2) to bide time (thats what the negotiations were commonly mis-used for).

The process is holy, but can be broken, but then that party looses the ability to do so (negotiate).

The process is a dice roll at the end of the turn against the commanders staff rating. If both participating commanders are successful, and an agreement is reached in case of (1) and (3), the mercenaries {the mercenary captn. units are always rated 8} are joining the higher rolling (extra d6 dice rollif two participated) commander. 

In case of (2) no extra dice is rolled and the negotiations are going on (as well as the 30” truce).

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A relative affair ...

My Ma told me the story that Grandpa was at the western front (most of the time), that he was lucky to made it, that he said he was buried three times, that the bayonet fights were worse than the shooting and that he fought at Verdun and later at the Somme. Also that the retreat (fights) in the last year were exceptionally merciless and they had to run and march a lot.

What I know is that he was born 1896 in East Prussia at the very eastern part the Memel area (today Lithuania), that he was in the normal infantry (so no engineer or artillery or fancy guards etc.). So he must have been 18 when the war started and was certainly not in the "Reserve" or the "Landwehr" because of that, i.e. he must found himself in the regular divisions.

The German Imperial Army had recruitment areas (see map one) which for the part where Grandpa came from is clearly the I corps. At the beginning of the war the I corps constituted itself of the 1st and 2nd divisions and the 37th division.

(Map one) recruitment areas of the Imperial Army 1914
As Angus was so nice to lend me his copy of the "Histories of the Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army which participated in the War (1914-1918)", an volume as impressive as its title, I luckily just had to deal just with 3 of them.

What strikes me the most is that al of them were involved in the Eastern start up to the war, from Gumbinnen to Tannenberg to even the 1st Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Grandpa never seem to mention that, maybe not to my Ma. As she put it, some things weren't discussed with little girls, and my uncles are sadly not able to shed a light on this anymore either ...

All of the 3 (divisions) were at some point be relocated to the western front and even been broken up and been put in service in other divisions, but most of the brigades seem to have served a lot on the eastern front. Too long it seems, for not to be mentioned. On the second map one can see the location of the brigades. 2 Infantry of the 1st Div., 3 of the 2nd and 4 of the 37th ... 9 possible regiments ... 

The 37th division was 3 years and the east and was just at the end 1917 "re-located", same as the 2nd. The 1st though was sent to the west as early as February 1916, to Verdun near Vaux. Quote: "... at the end of July, 1916, leaving behind the 41st Infantry Regiment, which fought before Verdun in August, was once more taken to the eastern front ..."
The German General Headquarters had a habit of diluting its divisions from 2 regiments per each (2) Brigades per division to three for an entire division. Much men were needed elsewhere. So the 41st (Infantry-Regiment "von Boyen" (5th East Prussian) Nr 41) stayed behind apparently.

(Map two) Location of the Brigades at peacetime 1914
As for its history it might be involved at the area Gumbinnen-Stallupönen, most definitively at Tannenberg, after a short escapade to the east Karpathien mountains. On the fateful 5th of March it was sent over Metz to deploy eastwards to Verdun. On the 24th of April it experienced for the first time the horrors of gas warfare on the western front at the Hardoumont valley. Later at the fight over the Bois de Fumin they suffered French barrages which ... "flattened the first two lines, and numerous soldiers were buried alive..." Also mentioned is, a participation on the attack on the French line on the Eastern Maas (Thiaoumont and "Kalte Erde" (Ouvrage de Froideterre) and fights around the Argonner forrest. At the beginning of September they merged the regiment to the newly built 221st Infantry division and had some rest at Mouzon at the Maas. At the 20th of October though they were transported to the battlefield of the Somme (southern part) which they took part until 16th of March 1917 they retreated to Cambrai.
The rest of 1917 reads even less quiet: Battle of Arras, 3rd Ypern and of course the tank battle of Cambrai. 1918 participation in the beginning of the offensive and then between Mai and Juli some "Training" in Marchienne-Ville. The rest is a lot of marching and retreat fights over Somme and rise, Roye and Lassigny, Bauvreignes and Bois de Loges, Nesle and Noyon St Quentin until they finally came to halt at Antwerpen-Mass at 11th of November.
It lost 5395 on NCOs and soldiers, missed 1078 (excluding the officer casualties/missing).

On the Internet, I found an image with the description of "Ersatz battalion Nr 41, Memel" of apparently 1915

Photo from Atelier Max Ehrhardt, Libauerstraße 20, Memel (Klaipieda)
The only "document", I have is a postcard that Grandpa sent home at the beginning of the war. The vegetation and the composition of the sections/people in the pictures might be just accidental.
A postcard from my Granpa, himself the second to the left on the top row standing (lots of decoration for 15 men).
The similarities of the regimental history might be just coincidental and a lot might get lost with memory and might not have been understood correctly. But the 41st is the only regiment out of the initial Corps I, that had a longer western front experience than all the others. It was actually at Verdun and the Somme and had the suffered terribly under barrages, which overlaps with Grandpa‘s shocking experiences. And it fought a lot of retreat fights and had to march a lot in 1918. Also the garrison deployment at peacetime would fit.

An Enigma are the numbers on the shoulder clasp of the front guy with the dog, which are 358. which cannot be a divisional number on its own, maybe the 35th division and the 8th Pomeranian infantry regiment ... but they weren‘t at Verdun and the recruitment area would not match ... the 35th Regt. was even further away (from Brandenburg) ...  it might be as well that I‘m misinterpreting the 3 and 8 for swirls as the 41st was also the 5th East-Prussian regiment ... well history will stay as evasive as ever ...

For sure I will never know, but I have the slightest inkling that Grandpa might possibly had served in the 41st.

Thank you for interest.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

1758 – Et wor in Künigswinta, net dafür en‘ net dahinter!

To introduce you all to my lovely hometown Ripuarian dialect (from ripa, lat. = the shore of the river):
"It was in Königswinter, not before or not behind!" – Angus and Peter played the brave Rhineland defenders (Colognians and Mainzeraner, all Angus' figures) under French pay, waiting for the river fleet to rescue them in a small town in the county, to be the overtly picturesque pensioners city called "Königswinter" (Kings winter). If you want to look for it, a couple of miles down was the famous Remagen bridge!

While me and Bart were leading the usual mad suspects of my Hessians (Hesse-Cassel, all mine apart from the CinC which was Barts (?)) in Prussian pay (nay, I'm sure the British subsidies were too little too late in this case, because I wasn‘t allowed to field more than 8 units!!!). And we were testing some of Angus‘ old perma-project: a "nice" SYW ruleset ... I forgot what the exact rules system almalgaments were this time, but is was fit for purpose.

Me and Bart actually tried to advance, but were "Hessitant" most of the time, but in exchange we "amused" the enemy gun batteries with our withering 4-pounder salvoes. In the last turn, I had a successful charge which destroyed their Rhinelandish resolve and the first regiment retreated.
In the end we suffered the fate of every conquerer, we will never be sure, if it was a true victory or just psychological phyrric, as such is the state of mind of the inhabitants of this valley – nothing really matters, only the next drink.

The (AWI) Hessians starring as the Hessians
Königswinter and its gallant defenders
The Hessian sluggish advance 
Barts Brigade was hit time and again 
While mine was just "Hessitant"
... even after been pointed towards the objective ...
Kölle, alaaf!
The rugged little town missing much of its future charm in this scenario
The distance is still a distance ...
The locals hiding behind large gabbions probably strengthening their resolve with the odd "Pittermänchen"
Even their cavalry is as stagnant as their Colognian beer (author‘s personal opinion!)
De Hesse‘ komme'!
Firing salvo after salvo ...
The Jäger (definitively not from Kur-Pfalz)
Bart pointing at our firing objective - the enemy‘s artillery
...then my brigade advances ...
... to defeat the Mainzer "Jekke" (Joker, loonies)
Our attack from an disheartened Colognian commanders point of view
And the British allied Dragoons appear somewhat reluctantly
The Mainzer brigade gets peppered 
The Jäger‘s sharp practice
Mainz wie es singt und lacht ... und untergeht ... 
A last volley of the Jäger
Row after row of Hessians ... the left bank is under Prussian control again .. or?

Friday, 27 October 2017

1918 early March after the first trench had fallen ...

This Thursday I decided it would be time to baptise my new British late war platoon (1st time use = always loose), so Angus and Peter agreed bravely to join me in the mud and attack my veteran British platoon with two German platoons using "Muddy CoC", a mix of two well known TFL games.

Intending the scenario being more unfair and draconic than the conditions of the peace of Brest-Littovsk, I gave them one stormtrooper platoon (veteran) and one normal platoon that was classed as green unfairly. Also they suffer under the availability of an array of support units, including an A7V, a Granatenwerfer, a 75mm gun, a Flamethrower team, a HMG and a anti-tank gun team classed as regular. With so much choice I would throw them into mind-numbing indecisiveness, surely!

Barrages and artillery support were out for both as the Germans had knocked out the British and blocking what was left of them. It was the beginning of the Michael offensive in spring 1918, the first trench had fallen and a British veteran platoon was ordered to keep the second long enough (until 10PM club end) for the rest of the division to fall back behind the lines ... a new MarkV would be coming "soon" in exchange for no available artillery support ... go lads!

The Germans started the turn and in no time they had most of their toys on the table, or trenches. My shooting was abysmal and then Angus rolled a double six (get another phase) 3 or 4 times consecutive!!!! Before I could mutter jolly gosh the krauts were in front of my barbed wire.
Then I decided to concentrate my two Lewis and the HMG on the oncoming Stormtroopers and at the same time ordered a counter attack of my riflemen in the supply trench against the oncoming German Greenies from the east. With terrible consequences: only my jun. leader survived half dead and one man!! While the Germans squad were annihilated to the last man.

But again the enemy units and dices outnumbered me and slowly the shock and losses were towering up. That was when Lotti (my A7V that I knew could be a pain in the posterior, IF reaching the middle of the dead ground) started to make her presence felt by raking my men. Gaps appeared, one Lewis nest after the other dropped dead ... But then the Mark V appeared which stunned the huns long enough, probably being used only the Mark IV from former games... to divert "Lotti‘s" attention ...

And then, thank god, it was 10PM ... and they lost the war, ups, I meant the shameful scenario conditions, next time I should give them 3 platoons ... or more tanks ... but that will be another entirely different war ...

The terrain was from the club, the tanks, the British, the Stormtroopers and the support units were from myself (Great War and Renegade Miniatures and Trenchworx and Warlord Games) while the "greeny" German platoon was sponsored by Angus.

Half of the Stormtroopers and the support units for the Germans off table ...
Initial set up ... the Germans are filling the trench ...

The "Green" flank attacks with support from "Lotti"
The Stormtrooper are advancing ...
The British platoon awaits the onslaught in their positions 
The British using a supply trench for a shock attack killing one squad in the process

and are holding the line
too late at the end the Mark V was sent in aiming directly at the A7V 
The Germans gaining ground  ... an uneasy prospect
Lotti and Mark are giving  each a fire fight
The Stormtrooper are getting grilled by the Lewis and the HMG
There the first Germans are in the trenches and kill the LMG positions 
Lotti hits the Mark
Dead man‘s hill

The German attack
Stormtroopers hop from crater to crater 
The Germans breaching the line and the colour supply of the photograph

Last counter attack ...
... hold the line until 10PM ... that was when we decide for a victorious retreat ...
... and more Germans are coming fresh from the East ...
Better fall back to the third line before the Krupp starts belching again ...