Photos and write-up: The Assault on Fort Gertrude

Chris Tuck has kindly provided a write up of the game he and Toby Whitty played at February’s big game day.

The Assault on Fort Gertrude

Being another of the military encounters between the warring states of Mittelheim

Comprising the latest action in the military ‘cake and arse party’ that are the Wars of the Gelderland Succession, the assault on Fort Gertrude pits a combined force of attackers from the Kingdom of Gelderland and the Palatinate of Saukopf-Bachscuttel against the defending troops of Imperial Fenwick.

Fort Gertrude is of only recent construction and occupies a strategic position covering one of the fords across the River Strudel.

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The combined assault consists of a seven company attack directly across the river with the intent of storming the fort before the garrison are fully alert. A second force of similar size has crossed the river above the ford and is now marching to flank the defensive position and seize the crossroads behind the fort. Since, when it comes to their orders, the Gelderland conception of ‘operational security’ is simply to make sure that the envelope has been stuck down properly, the movements of this second force have been discerned by other local Fenwickian troops who are now hurrying to the aid of the fort’s garrison.

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In closed column, six companies of Gelderland musketeers and one of Palatinate grenadiers hurry across the ford. The grenadiers head the column since they are specially drilled for missions that require a greater than usual kicking of the testicles of danger. The grenadiers are chosen from only the tallest men with the most experience; and also those that are most gullible and that don’t speak German, which gives them a useful haziness regarding the actual dangers of the operations upon which they are being sent.

Like a French farce, the Fenwickian defence of the fort itself falls into three acts, though the former would certainly involve more military competence and less ladies clothing.

Act I

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The Fenwickian sentries raise the alarm, since not even in the Imperial army can the arrival of seven companies of mystery infantry all shouting ‘Death to Fenwick! Charge! Charge!’ be regarded as unsuspicious. The bulk of the garrison is barracked in the nearby village. Though the accommodation is, rather like their commanding officer, old, worn out and leaking in improbable places, the troops seem surprisingly reluctant to exit the houses. By the time they are in the vicinity of the fort, events there have already been decided.

Act II

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At the fort, the grenadiers hurl their grenades, and also loose change, kerchiefs, lunch and other impedimentae that they find in their haversacks. 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 centre of the fort, the artillery crew show a marked reluctance actually to man their cannon, reducing rather considerably the damage caused by their fire.

Act III

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The grenadiers drive back the Fenwickian garrison company and charge into the fort. The columns of 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, and, without their artillery, are forced to try and hold off the Gelderland bayonets with a combination of harsh language and mime. The one-sided nature of the ensuing combat demonstrates conclusively why it is that artillery perform best when they are actually equipped with cannon.

To the west, behind the fort, lies the second Gelderland objective: the crossroads. From the south arrives three companies of splendid red-coated Gelderland musketeers. They are supported by a company of jager, and the three 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. 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 four companies of regulars follow.

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The Fenwickian troops, however, are poorly handled. Their commander, Captain Merkein, only joined the army so that he could ensure that he was no longer referred to as Herr Merkein. Two companies of his regulars are left behind, leaving only two to seize the all important crossroads. Though their musketry inflicts casualties upon the freikorps, the Gelderland commander, Colonel Adolphus von Toplitz-Hande, skilfully insinuates his regulars onto the dominating high ground. From there, terrifying volleys lash the Imperial troops. With the battle slipping from his grasp, Merkein orders up a squadron of von Laud’s hussars.

A key moment now arrives. Laud’s hussars speed to a gallop, intent upon a dashing charge into the enemy regulars who are now unloaded. Surely all that is required for a glorious victory is that they should actually make contact with the Gelderland troops. Sadly, their poor eyesight (by reason of which they are known in the Imperial army as ‘cataract cavalry’) results in their charge falling a mere sabre’s length short!

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Much to Toplitz-Hande’s relief, his infantry prove their mettle by reloading and firing, and then reloading and firing again. The hussars are driven back in disorder, as are the Imperial infantry holding the crossroads. Merkein finally manages to get his two other companies to move up. But Toplitz-Hande’s troops now have an unassailable position.

A short bout of further combat merely demonstrates the obvious: the battle is now over, and all that the Imperial troops can do is to begin a retreat. Fort Gertrude is taken, and northern Fenwick is now cut off!

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