Friday 26 September 2014

Charles XI and the Battle of Lund – 1676

60 mm C-in-C base of Charles XI for 
my Battle of Lund 1676 collection.
Miniatures are from Warfare.

Charles XI came into this world in 1655 at the Royal castle “Tre Kronor” in Stockholm. He was born at a time when the expansionistic legacy of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles X, saw Sweden at its pinnacle of Empire with land possessions all around the Baltics and in Northern Germany. 

The Swedish Empire at its pinnacle 1658. 
Both Charles XI and Charles XII would be forced to 
fight to keep it together.

Charles XI was only four years old when his father died shortly after returning from a military campaign in Poland. As the young boy was deemed “Unfit to rule”, the rains of Sweden was thus placed into the hands of a cabinet of advisors called “Förmyndare”, consisting to a large degree of old and new nobility connected to the Swedish military expansion. 

Charles XI on his horse "Brilliant" - a present from Louis XIV.
This is the portrait I used as inspiration for the vignette.

As a young boy Charles was subjugated to a rigorous and very ambitious study plan, reflecting the official view of a modern and “enlightened” monarch suited to rule the great Nordic Empire of Sweden. The studying proceeded, apparently with very little result for the young monarch. What wasn’t known at the time was, that Charles XI suffered from strong dyslexia. This would result in a very “personal” style of writing and spelling, which today can be appreciated though his journal, which he kept on a daily basis.

Charles XI in the midst of battle,
crossing through the enemy's lines.

Charles ascended to the throne in 1672, and with his practical and pragmatic mentality, he quickly found that the Cabinet of advisors had mismanaged affairs to a alarming degree, and the need for some hands on change was imminent. Immediately he set upon a long and controversial restructuring process, not only reducing the political power of the Swedish nobility but also strengthening the Crown’s economy by widespread confiscations of land, from both nobility and church. 

A typical soldier's farm from the "Indelningsverket".
If the soldier got killed in battle, his widow could marry a new soldier
 or be forced to vacate the farm.

Not only the hard pressed Swedish economy got a galvanization, but also the army, which now had suffered about 50 years of decline since the glory days of Breitenfeld and Lutzen. Ever the practical man, Charles XI implemented a genius system – the “indelningsverket”. A simple concept where each soldier under the Crown would get a small farm to keep in peace time. Here he could grow crops, raise a family and live a good and healthy life. 

Each farm clearly marked the regiment and company to which its resident belonged.
Here the Wartofta Company of the Royal Skaraborg Regiment.

When war lured, the king could effectively call up 18.000 foot soldiers and 8.000 cavalrymen from these farmsteads on a very short notice, as each unit already had a drilled and predetermined mobilization plan. The regiments were strong in morale, as each unit consisted of men from the same shire or “socken” in Swedish. So when the fighting was at its worst, with bullets and cannonballs tearing through the ranks, these men who were all acquainted from back home, would stand fast as no one wanted to loose their face in front of the neighbour. 

This reform was the very hearth the Swedish army of this period, later referred to as the “Karoliner” period due to the name of the ruling kings, Charles XI (Karl in Swedish) and his son Charles XII.

Another shot of the monarch as he gallops 
across the battle field on his horse Brilliant.

Early on Charles XI proved to be much more the hands on reformist and modernizer of Sweden, rather than an expansionistic warrior king like his father and the earlier Gustavis Adolphus, with his campaigns during the Thirty Years War.

In an attempt to diplomatically cool things down with the Nordic arch-rival, Denmark, Charles XI was engaged to the Danish King’s sister, Ulrika Eleonora, one year younger than Charles.

At the battle of Lund Charles got so caught up in the action,
that he rode up to a Danish regiment and gave the order to attack.

They were a good match, and would later have a seemingly happy marriage, but due to the pan-European intrigues of France and Holland, and a complex network of alliances and defensive pacts, Sweden and Denmark suddenly was forced to declare war on each other – The Scanian War. Something the Danish King, Christian V apparently did not mind too much, as he saw it almost as his life’s mission to re-conquer the lost East-Danish provinces. Thus the wedding was postponed, and the reformist Charles was forced to become a warrior king.

Risking everything, Charles dashes through the Danish lines
and rejoins his main force at the battle of Lund.

At the decisive battle of Lund Charles lead his army in person. The odds were sky high, but Charles proved his worth and the fate of the battle was decided with him, when he bravely risked his own life breaking through the Danish lines to reunite his army, and create a crushing pincer manoeuvre, that would break the entire Danish army. 

After the Scanian War, Charles XI continued on his reforms, strengthening Sweden against future threats. Now much wiser from his previous experience of “profitable” European alliances, he managed to keep Sweden neutral and out of the power sphere and wars of Louis XIV.

Close up - Warfare offers some nicely proportioned horses,
and there is not much flash to clear. 

In 1697 the now 41 years old Charles XI became ill. After a long and painful fight against pancreas cancer he died on the 5th April 1697, leaving the Swedish Empire economically fit and with Europe’s most professional army. Something his son would need much sooner than he had preferred. 

Thanks you very much for reading!

Saturday 20 September 2014

Battle of Britain Day - Spitfire MK1s

Two Spitfires scramble in the skies above Albion.

Dear readers, as September the 15th is the official ”Battle of Britain day”, what can be more appropriate for this week’s blog post than a pair of Spitfire MK1s?

Excellent and fast playing rule for aerial wargaming!

Fellow wargamer Mark (follow his blog here) recently turned me onto Check Your 6. I found the rules easy to learn and fast playing, while at the same time adding a lot of reality to the aeronautic element.

After one test game I had to succumb to the charm of aerial wargaming and face it – I was hooked on yet another unforeseen diversion. This time, however, a very affordable and quickly painted one.

The Battle of Britain - fought between July and October of 1940.

Since Mark have a very extensive and nice WW2 aircraft collection in 1/285, boasting some sharp looking Messerschmitt 109s, I went for the Raiden Miniatures 1/285 Spitfire MK1s, offering us a chance to play some of the Check Your 6 Battle of Britain scenarios.

Check Your 6 offers an great scenario book
 on the Battle of Britain.

Assembling my first Spitfire plastic kit already as a young teenager, the charm of this very graceful “English lady” has always had a certain sway over me. I love the dynamic shape, the silhouette of the wings, and perhaps if you will, the myth of this plane that seemingly saved a nation if not the entire war, and became a symbol of British resilience in an otherwise very dark time. I love the story of these brave young RAF pilots, sometimes limping in with shot-up planes, while 10 minutes later scrambling off in a replacement in the 24/7 drama of these days in 1940, when the fate of Europe was decided in the skies over Britain.

A German bomber has its sight seeing tour cut short.

Fought between July and October of 1940, the Battle of Britain was essentially the “big push” of Göring’s Luftwaffe to damage British defenses, gain aerial superiority and open the door for a naval supported invasion of with the seemingly unstoppable Nazi land forces – Operation Sea Lion. 

Raiden Miniatures offers a very nicely
 sculpted Spitfire model and easy to apply decals.

As Luftwaffe raids commenced, the German bombers would be under fighter support from the very advanced and also incredibly beautiful Messerschmitt Bf109Es. In many ways arguably the better plane, the Messerschmitt however had a few challenges when pitted against the British Hurricanes and less numerous but more famous Spitfires.

Two well designed adversaries.
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 & the Messerschitt Bf109E.

The Bf109Es only had two machine guns and two low velocity canons against the RAF’s standard eight 7.7 mm Browning machine guns. At the same time, the fuel consumption of the German Daimler-Benz motor paired with the lengthy raid radius over the Channel, would have pilots stressed during combat with one eye on the fuel gage – every Messerschmitt pilot knew when it was time to break off, and head home before fuel the level would be too critical. The RAF had thus the advantage of closer supplies of fuel and ammo, meaning many squadrons could and would do several “scrambles” per day. 

Despite a hot tail, this old boy made it home for tea
 - with a great story to tell.

The slight advantage in aerial maneuverability of the Messerschmitt was thus nullified by the factors above. Nevertheless the Germans gave it their best shot, and went all in, even with the much feared bombing raids on London, aimed at zapping public and political morale. However, offensive operations costing the Luftwaffe 25-30% casualties during September, something that the Nazi war machine could not replace in a 1:1 timeline, took its toll on the striking power of the Luftwaffe. Eventually Hitler had to face the facts. The Nazis had attained their first defeat, and Operation Sea Lion was subsequently archived for good. 

The back bone of British moral. 
No further introductions needed.

Churchill’s famous words from a speech made during the fateful days of the battle, would resound to form the corner stone of public sentiment: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.

Thank you very much for reading!

Friday 12 September 2014

Refighting Lund 1676

Latest addition to my collection. The 2nd Jutland Cavalry Regiment. 
Figures are from Warfare, the flag made by Peter Smith.

After a summer of diversions to Napoleonic treats and Franco-Prussian joys, I have now returned to my Scandinavian call of duty – Lund 1676.

October approaches, and on the weekend of the 25th and 26th, a handful of Danish and Swedish wargamers with myself at the rudder have agreed to host a table at this years Danish wargaming convention “DFFcon” in Copenhagen. 

A historic venue for a Wargaming show.
The Royal Danish Armory.

DFFcon is one of the best shows in Scandinavia, with a great diversity of games open to participation over a two day period, while the backdrop for the whole event is the beautiful and historic 16th century Royal Danish Armoury building, today home to the Royal Danish Army Museum. Gamers are literally throwing dice and refighting history, between muskets, armours and displays containing Scandinavian military history relics.

Jacob Bülow leading his 2nd Jutland Cavalry forward
with unmistakable enthusiasm.

It goes without saying that the theme for our table is of course going to be the cataclysmic Battle of Lund. Fought on a frostbitten 4th of December 1676 outside Lund in central southwest Scania, it is the single bloodiest battle ever fought between two Scandinavian states (54% total casualties on both sides). As Sweden ascended into Empire, a series of bitter wars were fought between Denmark and Sweden over Scandinavian political and military supremacy in the 17th century, and it saw its pinnacle at Lund, where national conscript units preferred standing and dying rather than give ground to their hated adversaries.

The Royal Danish Armory as it would have looked ca. 1700.
From here the troops were equipped and could be marched directly on to troop transports.

Today, some 340 years later, and with things considerably more amicable in Scandinavia, Swedish and Danish Wargamers will come together to refight this most grand and iconic of all our battles.

From DFFcon 2013.

Over the course of the two DFFcon days, we plan to host a series of different scenarios, offering gamers a chance to refight to most important sequences from the battle of Lund. This of course also means that we need to be able to represent a diversity of the units actually present at the battle. To reach this goal we are 4 painters (2 Danes and 2 Swedes) working on the project, and results so far have been fantastic.

Weyher’s Regiment painted by Fellow Dane,
 Tomas Guntzelnick Poulsen. Figures Warfare, flags Peter Smith.

I will over the next weeks leading up to DFFcon post more from this “arms race”, but before returning to the painting table I want to send out a short message to a man, without whom, it would have been hard to recreate many of the units. 

When we started building the armies different choices were made in terms of miniatures. Warfare Miniatures, NorthStar, Wargames Factory and others were mixed with careful consideration, but flags were hard to find.

A view of the amazing flag Peter Smith created for us.

Luckily fellow blogger and graphic artist, Peter Smith, agreed to help us with a sheet for the Danes. After gathering source information from historic archives and the Danish Army compendium made by Hasselager, Snorrason, Henriksen and Schorr, I was able to give Pete the necessary details. His work resulted in some first class, richly colourful and wonderfully detailed flags.

A huge THANK YOU goes out to Pete from all of us – you’ve helped us make this part of history come alive again!

Thank you very much for reading!

Friday 5 September 2014

The Infernal Brigade – 5th French Hussars


Inspired by the excellent “Sons of Mars” painting by American artist and military painter Keith Rocco, I decided on the 5th Hussars as the perfect starting point for adding a unit of these colourful and dashing cavalrymen to my French Napoleonic collection.

"The Sons of Mars" by Keith Rocco.

The 5th had strong historic roots back to the American Revolution where they fought the British and to the Revolutionary Wars participating at the important battle of Valmy. During the Napoleonic period and the War of The Third Coalition they famously charged alongside the 2nd hussars at Austerlitz, clashing with the Grand Duke Constantine’s Uhlans. The trumpeter of the 5th, Joseph Pincemaille, actually managed to capture the Uhlan’s regimental commander. 

Joseph Pincemaille perhaps?

Later during the War of The Fourth Coalition the 5th got brigaded with the 7th Hussars, and came under command of the legendary light cavalry commander, Lasalle. The nickname “Infernal Brigade” was given to Lasalle’s units after Jena, when they hung like wild hawks over the fleeing Prussian infantry, cutting down all that stopped for a pause.

French Hussars in all their splendor.
Plate by L. & F. Funcken.

Legend also has it, that Lasalle with 500 men from his Infernal Brigade managed to have the fortified city of Stetting, with its garrison of 5.000(!) men, surrender to him, simply by pointing to his men and claiming them to be the avant-garde of an approaching army. The Prussians didn’t want any of that, and laid down their arms in spite of their current 10:1 advantage. Such was the reputation of this fearsome brigade.

Great details on the small cavalry flag offer by GMB.

Originally formed in 1780, the 5th became part of the later modernization of the cavalry. Before the Napoleonic wars the French army had 13 hussar regiments. However these had been reduced and refitted into 10 regiments by 1803. As part of the modernization the shako was introduced in 1804, whilst the elite companies would stand out by wearing a colback. 

Napoleon inspecting the ranks - 5th is to the right.

The standard uniform consisted of the very characteristic dolman worn with the pelisse hanging over the shoulder. Wintertime would see them also wearing the pelisse, to add extra warmth with its fur edgings. Down to the left hang their sabre-tache. This exotic note to their Hungarian DNA was individually decorated for each regiment.

Rear shoot offering a good view of the white pelisses.

Weaponry would include the characteristic curved sabre for the light cavalry, a standard issue 1786 short musket and a not insignificant amount of chevalier’s pride and dash.

Thank you very much for reading!