Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday 25 July 2013

Hooptedoodle #91 - Hitler's Trousers, and This and That

Die Festung Hohensalzburg - if you're going to have a castle, make it a good one
Greetings from our continuing holiday in Austria. We did a couple of nice walks, but it’s been rather hot for such activities, and I’ll spare you a full catalogue of ice creams and such. Sadly, the Contesse has had a fall which required stitches in a very nasty head cut, so we are having a quiet few days while she recovers her strength and grace. Prior to this, we did the planned trip to Salzburg, which was excellent, and we went to Berchtesgarten, including a visit to the Kehlstein, Hitler’s fabled “Eagle’s Nest”.

This post is really just a collection of snaps, but I found Hitler’s place interesting in a spooky sort of way. The engineering – particularly in view of the date – is fantastic, and it was designed to show Germany’s expertise in construction technology. I found it very thought provoking that the little brass elevator which takes you up to the top level must often have contained Borman, Göring, Hitler himself and any number of visiting dignitaries. Nothing ever disappears completely – do you think there are still traces of them in there?

Old Max Foy inspects the defences at Salzburg

Mozart's parents showed something of a lack of imagination,
bringing him into the world on the 3rd floor of a building with
his name all over the front of it. Enthusiasts for young Wolfgang's
egalitarian beliefs will note the SPAR grocery store on the ground
floor with some satisfaction, I feel
Interesting (and possibly well-known) tit-bit on the Eagle’s Nest. It was a well-kept secret that Hitler suffered badly from both claustrophobia and vertigo. It was concealed because it might be considered something of a failing in the leader of the German master-race, but it made the Eagle’s Nest – a gift from the Nazi party in 1938 – the cruellest present imaginable. How Adolf managed to survive the terrifying motor trip up to the summit is beyond me. The little elevator (which is still powered by a U-boat engine, I believe) is brass, and is polished like a mirror inside, since this makes it appear larger than it is, and would help avoid the Fuhrer’s arriving to meet his guests with inappropriately wet trousers.

It seems that he was also very uncomfortable in the gloomy little tunnel into the mountain which takes you to the bottom of the elevator. To overcome this, Hitler and guests were driven the 150 metres or so in a big staff car, and alighted at the lift door. That in itself is an acceptable piece of protocol, whatever the reasoning behind it. However, the tunnel is too narrow for the car to turn, so the driver had to reverse the full length, turn round and reverse all the way back in again to be in position for the Grand Exit. These guys were good, make no mistake about it!

One of the cruise boats working the ferry runs on Lake Wolfgang is the 1873
paddle-wheeler Kaiser Franz Josef I, a lovely old thing. If you catch this boat,
you pay an extra 1 euro "Nostalgia Charge" on top of your fare. Yes, it's probably
a rip-off, but somehow it feels like a privilege

Eagle's Nest - not for the faint hearted

Late edit - I forgot to include these pics. Anyone know what this is, or when
it dates from? It's badged as an Auto Union, complete with 4-circles logo

Thursday 18 July 2013

Hooptedoodle #90 - The Electric Sheep

Just arrived on Summer holibags with the family. Nothing has actually happened yet, since we’ve spent a little time catching up with our sleep since we got here, but the place seems nice enough – hot, though. We are staying in the Austrian Salzkammergut, the Lake District. We are at Lake Wolfgang, and it’s about 45 minutes into Salzburg by the local Postbus route #150 – haven’t been there yet, that’s for tomorrow.

I’m gently getting on with my 1809 Danube campaign reading, and have been scoring some minor Napoleonic spotters’ points around these parts. The Austrian army’s crossing of the River Inn into Bavaria, on 10th April 1809 took place fairly close to here. The left flank of the advance - the Armeekorps of Hiller and Archduke Ludwig  - crossed the river at Braunau, which is just a little way away, and the left flank was covered by Jellacic’s VI Korps, which was at Salzburg itself, in the superb old castle.

Only other thing I’ve seen of relevance thus far in the little town is a rather interesting establishment called the Hotel Radetzky, which has impressive murals on the outside walls of Wagram-period Austrian soldiers.

The picture at the top of the post is the view from my balcony at 06:30 this morning, which is pleasant enough, but I was especially taken with a little electric robot lawnmower which the hotel has clipping the grass in the early mornings and late at night. I’ve seen similarly inspired devices which clean the bottoms of swimming pools, and I’ve heard of one which vacuums the house while you’re out, but I’ve never seen one of these grass-cutting gizmos before. Not only is  it clever, but it’s also hilariously funny – my son and I happily watched it bumbling about like a demented electric sheep for at least half an hour, with Nick providing commentary subtitles, such as “uh-oh!” when it was headed for a tree or similar. It always sorted itself out of problem corners, though there appeared to be a few emergency stops. We keep expecting to meet it in the hotel’s corridors, patiently clipping away, keeping the carpet neat.

These things may be very common – possibly every home in Santa Barbara has one – who knows? – but such technology is new to me, and we definitely want one. No matter that we would have to redesign the garden so that it would not have to cope with stone steps – there must be a way. Anyway, we want one, though we may have moved on to something else by tomorrow. This one is Italian, by the way.

Broadband wi-fi is not good here, and is switched off for large parts of the day – in fact I have a suspicion I may be hacking into a network I’m not supposed to, but I'll keep trying intermittently.

The little town has an interesting WW2 war memorial, which I hope to get a decent look at. We are going on a day trip to Berchtesgarten and the Eagle’s Nest next week, which I’m looking forward to, and the hiking and cycling potential around here seems very good, so once we’ve recovered from the 2-hours’-sleep-a-day regime which early morning charter flights from UK provincial airports force upon us we should be busy enough.


On a slight downbeat note, I am a little disappointed that the local representative of our British holiday company speaks no German at all, though she has been based here for a couple of years. Not a bloody word, though this is not an area where English is spoken as widely as in, say, the Tyrol. She even appears to take a pride in this achievement. Oh well – no point having a national stereotype if we don’t take the chance to reinforce it now and then, though it does seem a bit like employing a man with no arms as a goalkeeper. I must say that the British tourists here are well looked after, but we seem to be expected somehow to be a bit dim. Very like Americans used to be regarded in Paris when I used to go there years ago.

Not to worry – Oi, Radetzky! Get us another beer, will you, me old son?

Thursday 11 July 2013

My Danube Trip - Update

This refers to a private fantasy I mentioned back at the end of last year, here, to visit Napoleon’s battlefields from the early stages of the French counterattack against the forces of the Fifth Coalition in 1809, on the Danube.

The biggest initial challenge – apart from my own lack of detailed expertise on this campaign – was how the blazes to set about getting a handle on such a project. There are very few suitable battlefield tours available – not even written guides, and it would be very easy to attempt something unmanageable, or reduce a long-cherished dream to a sad shambles. Getting the right balance between battlefield-hiking and beer-drinking is also important. Tricky.

Well, I’m delighted to say it’s coming together nicely – my crazy friend and I are definitely going in September. We have flight tickets and hotels booked and everything. We’ll spend three days based at Regenburg, and the rest of the week looking around sights of Vienna.

I am stunned by the help I have received – originally from Old John, who sent me a huge parcel of brochures and stuff for all sorts of places all over the area, and later from various tourist offices and individuals I have approached by email in Germany. People have really been enthusiastic and supportive – fantastic. I am touched and grateful and even a bit embarrassed, all at the same time.

Regensburg - the bridge the French couldn't destroy
The plan is that we will fly to Vienna, via Amsterdam, on a Wednesday, and then take the intercity ICE train to Regensburg (this is the Dortmund express, so should be a classy train). Thursday morning we pick up a hire car in Regensburg and drive out to visit the Bayerisches Armeemuseum in Ingolstadt. In the afternoon we are to meet up with a gentleman who is curator of a local museum and author of a number of publications on the Battle of Abensberg, and he will give us a personal guided tour of the Abensberg battlefield. This is a fantastic asset – Abensberg is so big a battle, and so fragmented, that I had sort of abandoned any idea of trying to follow the events of the day in an organised way. My fall-back plan was to pick on Lannes’ advance, and follow that. No, no, says our volunteer guide – best to do it chronologically. If we supply the transport, he will take us around in a proper manner. Sounds excellent to me.

Bavarian Army Museum, Ingolstadt
Friday is up for grabs, but I’ve been sent a terrific narrative and battlefield guide (in English) for Eggmühl by the tourist people at Schierling – I even got a nice letter from the mayor. I also have contact details for a local Heimatspfleger who can take us around the field. For Landshut there is nothing available, but a local historian typed up an account of both actions at Landshut in an email – a lot of work for him, and much appreciated – and he even recommended a local Biergarten! We may not have the time or the stamina to visit Landshut or Thann, but Eggmühl is a must – I now have the new, locally produced book, and I also have Ian Castle’s very nice book from the Osprey Campaign series, so I’ll take both of those away on the family’s forthcoming holiday at Salzburg, and spend a few idle moments studying these, to improve my understanding of the area.

For the Saturday we have the offer of a tour of the historical highlights of Regensburg (a.k.a. Ratisbon) with our kind curator again, and then I think we should devote some time to wining and dining him to express our thanks.

Schönbrunn Palace
Sunday we catch the train back to Vienna, where we have a few days to check out Schönbrunn and the Heeresgeschichtemuseum, plus a whole pile of other candidate sites, including a concert or two and lots of cakes and coffee. We fly home on the Wednesday. My liver may be resting for a while afterwards.

Mustn’t get carried away here – a lot depends on everything working out, and the availability of some key individuals, but we really could not have had more help or support. I can now get back to reading the John Gill trilogy, Loraine Petre’s 1809 book, Gunther E Rothenburg, Chandler and various other sources with a calmer and more positive mind. Prior to this period of progress, such reading merely heightened my anxiety and the feeling of hopelessness!

I’m really looking forward to it now.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

My C&CN-based ECW Game - revised Quick Reference Sheet

Quick - grab his QRS...!
Following changes made for my recent Battle of Nantwich, I have put a revised version of the QRS onto Google Docs - the link in the upper right corner of the blog screen should get you there. Any problems, please let me know.

A couple of minor typos corrected, and Enclosures and Swamp added to the Terrain section. Everything should now be back in sync.

Sunday 7 July 2013

More Horse, More Horse

Another two newly painted units of ECW cavalry back from Lee's House of Magic. The guys with the nice purple flag are another bit of the Royalist Northern Horse - this lot being Sir Charles Lucas' regiment. The more sedate people below are Sir Thomas Myddelton's Parliamentarian "Myddleton's Brigade". Lucas, I think, was captured at Marston Moor. All I can remember about Myddelton is that he was the governor (owner? warden? janitor? gardener?) at Chirk Castle.

If you care, the Royalists are Tumbling Dice men on Kennington/SHQ horses, and the other lot are all Kennington/SHQ. I believe that the flags are pretty much correct, which is an unusually fine result for me.

Speaking of results, and without wishing to tread on any toes here, I note that the BBC's website is heralding the glad news that the Briton has won the Wimbledon men's singles final today. I don't have any kind of a problem with this, I'm as proud as can be, for all of us, but I wonder if he would still have been a Briton if he came from, for example, Oxfordshire. I don't recall Tim Henman ever being a Briton. Funny, that.

It would be paranoid to suggest that if Murray had lost he would definitely have been a Scot, so I'm not going anywhere near there.

Another random fact - a couple of days ago, I did a search on Google for Aaron Copland, the American composer, to get some biographical material. The day after, I visited the Amazon site, using the same machine, and - lo! - I was presented by Amazon with adverts for various Aaron Copland CDs.

Now how could that possibly happen? Cookie swaps?

Saturday 6 July 2013

The Battle of Nantwich – History Is Still Bunk

Major Tom Morgan's dragoons at Henhull Farm
Yesterday Chester and Alan came around to fight the Battle of Nantwich with me (background and setup are in the previous post). We had deliberately agreed not to be constrained by history, but our game ended up quite a bit different from the original.

In the real battle, Fairfax, with the Parliament forces, decided against a frontal assault on the Royalist position at Acton Church, and since the Royalists were short of cavalry at the beginning of the action, he did a smart left swerve, and headed for the besieged town of Nantwich, in the hope that the garrison could be added to his army.

We didn’t do that. Our Fairfax went straight at the church, and ran out of steam very quickly. The hedged farm enclosures did handicap the cavalry, realistically, but slowed everything down too. Fairfax’s units of foot kept retreating back into the enclosures whenever they were sent on the attack, but there was no sign of any offensive movement from the Royalist forces.

Again, in the real battle, once Fairfax set off on his diagonal march to Nantwich, acting Maj.Gen Richard Gibson fell upon him with the Royalist foot, and the battle was a close call until suddenly – for unexplained reasons – the veteran Royalist regiments of Warren and Earnley broke and ran, and the battle ended quickly and very expensively for the King’s army in Cheshire, with some 1700 prisoners being taken.

Our version, as I have explained, was nothing like this. There were some very bloody exchanges, but it became fairly static, and the number of Victory Banner counters rose steadily until it reached 6-each – 7 needed for the win.

At this point, we took a break for dinner, aware that it was not easy to see how a finishing stroke might be produced. We needn’t have worried, on resumption Fairfax’s last remaining unit of cavalry, Brereton’s Cheshire Horse, closed in to finish off Earnley’s battered veterans, and were promptly hit by an astounding volley of musketry which routed them – game over. Royalist win. History is overturned yet again.

Parliament starting position

Richard Gibson at Acton Church with the only Royalists to be in place at midday

Lord Byron's Horse in a hurry for some reason - oh yes, they are late - that's the reason

Lord Molyneux's horses have a close look at a Merit hedge, which may well pre-date the ECW

General view from the Parliamentary left at around the time that Fairfax's attack got badly bogged down 

Victuals - Royalist ale...

...and Puritan pork pies?

The garrison at Nantwich - they did nothing all day

At top left you can catch a very rare glimpse of Lord Byron, the Royalist commander,
within sight of the action

With total disregard for history, the Royalists set up a very strong position  based
on Darfold Hall - not that anyone was attacking, mind you

Amazing shooting - the final throw, as Earnley's muskets see off the Cheshire Horse
to win the day. Three cheers for His Majesty...