Wednesday 25 February 2015

Danes in Pickelhauben - Early WW1 Infantry

The 84th Inf Reg "von Mannstein" from Schleswig advancing.
Miniatures from Great War Miniatures.
These are the two first squads of a four-base company.

This week I refocused my imagination from the brisk waves on the North Sea and the Battle of Jutland 1916, to the dusty roads of Belgium and the summer heat of august 1914. It was finally time to get started with my Early World War One project. 

Danes in German service.
The signs reads (in Danish): "The North-Schleswigs send a greeting"

As few of my regular readers have escaped, I grew up in Jutland. Again this coincides with my WW1 projects. This time, I wanted to focus on the 30.000 Danes from Southern Jutland, who served as part of the Kaiser’s army from 1866-1919. 
“What – Danes in the Kaiser’s army ?” you say… Well, yes – here is the story:

The Danish border before 1864, and after 1864. Schleswig and Holstein was duchies under the Danish Crown. On the right side map, the orange line illustrates the border 
that was drawn in 1920, after the fall of Imperial Germany.

In 1864 Bismarck launched a German coalition army, under the leadership of Prussian Field Marshal Von Moltke, into a war against Denmark over the hotly disputed duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. Both provinces had a mix of Danish and German speaking citizens, but especially in the region of Schleswig this was very visible with the southern part predominantly German and the northern part to a large extend Danish in both language and culture.

Another shot at the two squads advancing.
I've based them on 50*50mm bases. 4 such bases will constitute a company.

The result of the War of 1864, was a crushing defeat for the small Danish army, as their dreams of national greatness spurred by the successes from the war of 1848, was shot to pieces and buried at Dybbøl by superior German rifles and hundreds of heavy guns from Krupp. This was the first careful step toward German unification, the legacy and life’s work of Bismarck.

Imperial Germany - forged by Bismarck and rules by the Kaiser.

The peace settlement was a bitter pill for the Danish government. With the army in ruins and practically no real political allies to add counterweight to the diplomatic game, the Danes had to cede both duchies to Prussia and the North German Coalition. This meant, that northern Schleswig (or Southern Jutland if you will), with a predominantly Danish population, came under the rule of Berlin. 

Danish speaking "North-Schleswig" troops before departure to the front.

The Danes quickly got equipped with Needle-guns, “pickelhauben” and enrolled into the dark blue uniform. Many new regiments was formed from the newly conquered territories, amongst them the 84th Infantry Regiment “Von Mannstein”, located at Haderslev (Today a garrison city in southern Denmark) The regiment was heavily involved in the Franco-Prussian War, and took part in big battles like Gravelotte-St-Privat and Le Mans. Like Denmark, France would also suffer defeat by the German arms, and in 1871 the German states were united under the leadership of the Prussian King, proclaimed Kaiser in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Bismarck’s work was complete.

View from behind, as the line advances.
When they came close to the enemy receiving fire, they would disperse into smaller squad sized units.

But for the Danes of Northern Schleswig, the hardship had just begun. Now part of the German Empire, ruled by a Kaiser, they were dressed in grey and drafted into the professional and effective mobilization machinery of the German state. As the First World War erupted, the 84th was attached to 18th Division, part of Von Kluck’s 1. Army, scheduled to go wide and be the hard hitting right flank of Von Schlieffen’s plan. 

German infantry advancing on the Western Front - August 1914.

The Danes of the 84th fought with distinction at the Battle of Liége, Charleroi, Mons, The Marne and later at the Aisne. By the end of September, these young men had been turned into battle hardened veterans. They would fight on for the next four years, enduring the horrors of the trenches, the gas, the heavy shelling and the endless mud. Of the 30.000 Danes enlisted under the Kaiser, 6.000 was killed in action. Danes served at both the Western and Eastern Front and in the Kaiserliche Kriegsmarine.

Close-Up: The helmet cloths carried the regimental no. in red or green.

As a further anecdote to the above, I can mention that during my time as drafted into the special chemical war branch of the Danish Army, I was stationed at the same garrison city as the Danes in the 84th – in the now Danish city of Haderslev.

The defeat of Imperial Germany again raised the question of Schleswig.
This map shows how Schleswig was divided between Germany and Denmark, after a plebiscite in 1920.

South Jutland was returned to Denmark in 1920. As part of the post WW1 peace settlement, the North Schleswig region had a plebiscite, which finally settled the matter and drew the border we live by today. The region holds a duo-cultural profile, harmonized and fully integrated in modern day Europe.

Thank you very much for reading

Tuesday 17 February 2015

The SMS König: A 10-gun broadside

The SMS König with Rear Admiral Behncke taking the van position at Jutland.
Model is from the 1/2400 Micronauts range by GHQ.

Borrowing the internal layout of the previous Kaiser Class, but with improved broadside factor matching that of the contemporary British Iron Duke class, the König class battleship program was approved by the Kaiser as part of the 1909-10 naval budget. The class would comprise four ships: König, Grosser Kurfürst, Markgraf and Kronprinz – all fitted and launched during 1914, making them the newest ships in the German navy at the outbreak of the war.

The SMS König enjoying a quiet day at sea.

The König class would retain the use of the 12in Krupp guns, offering a higher muzzle velocity but also increased barrel wear. The British navy had at this time already shifted to 13.5in or even 14in guns for their ships, with the improved shoot that would potentially come as an effect of lower muzzle velocity. The German navy would keep their faith in the 12in all the way until the launch of the Bayern class in 1916, fitting that class with whopping 15in guns.

Horizontal photo of the model.
Note the elevated masts,

In terms of armor, the König class stood it’s ground towards the opposing British ships both in belt and deck armor. Comparing to the Kaiser class, the significant improvement was to scrap the clumsy layout of the mid-ship turrets of the Kaiser class, and replacing this with a superimposed central turret on the new König class. With this mid-ship turret being able to rotate to both sides, the König was the first ship class able to direct a 10-gun broadside towards the enemy. 

Extending the masts.
I'm adding a small "T" etched in brass. 

The crisply detailed GHQ models take nicely to washes and highlighting.
Here the rust effects on the protective mine-skirts gets a light brown highlighting.

A good way to get a 3D effect when looking down on the deck,
is by picking out all the grey edges with a light grey.

Just like the grey hull, the tan colored deck also gets a 
highlighted edge to really create contrast and visual effect.

A final touch is applied to the dark sea green, by adding a layer of glossy varnish on top. 
This will create both depth and a realistic water effect.

Named in honor of King William II of Württemberg, the SMS König joined the High Seas Fleet as part of Battle Squadron III in 1914. In 1916 at the Battle of Jutland the SMS König, under Rear Admiral Paul Behncke, had van position as Battle Squadron III approached the Grand Fleet. When the two navies closed in she became heavily involved in a gunnery duel with Beatty’s Lion and later with the bigger British battleships Barham and Warspite of the 5th Battle Squadron. 

Actual WW1 postcard with the SMS König.

After this first graze with Beatty and as the afternoon went into evenings, the König closed with the Iron Duke, the British flagship with Admiral Sir John Jellicoe on-board. The König started to come under fire from the larger 13.5in guns of the Iron Duke. One shell struck the forward conning tower, but didn’t penetrate. However, Behncke was injured but refused to leave the bridge and stayed in command of his ship during the rest of the battle.

The SMS König model, with full steam ahead on the North Sea.

In 1917 the König was again in action, but this time against the Russian navy at the engagement of Moon Sound. Here the König scored 9 hits on the Russian pre-dreanought Slava, eventually forcing the Russian crew to scuttle their ship. The operation was tied to the recent German conquest of Riga, and had the strategic aim to clear out the remnants of Russian naval forces in the area. 

A view from above.  I always apply name tags to the bases. Not only does it help with fast identification during games, but it also looks nice and adds to the finished model.

The last action of the SMS König was in 1918, and turned into nothing less than mutiny. With the Great War coming to a close, Scheer and the German admiralty wanted to strike a hard blow at the British Grand Fleet in the hopes of improving Germany’s position at the coming peace negotiations. In full disregard of the obvious peril and undoubted cost in men and material this operation would cause, Scheer ordered the Germany navy out to sea on the 29th October 1918. The order for a virtual suicide mission was to much for the hard tested sailors. Mutiny spread like a wildfire from ship to ship. Onboard the König, the Captain was wounded while both the first officer and adjutant was killed during the turmoil. 

The SMS König was finally surrendered and interned at Scapa Flow, where her crew scuttled her in June 1919. Today she rests at 40 meters depth and has become a popular diving site for enthusiasts.


Laid Down: Oct 1911

Launched: Mar 1913

Completed: Aug 1914

Constructed at: Wilhelmshaven

Displacement: 28.148 tons (Full load)

Dimensions: 580ft x 97ft x 28ft 6in

Main guns: 10 x 12in 50cal (5 turrets)

Armor: 14-10in belt, 4,5in deck and 14in turret armor

Machinery: 3-shaft Parsons Turbines creating 31.000 shp 

Speed: 21 knots

Endurance: 10.000 miles at 10 knots

Thank you very much for reading

Tuesday 10 February 2015

3rd Guards Battalion & the Battle of Leuthen 1757

The 3rd Guards Battalion advancing under Hauptmann von Möllendorff. 
Miniatures are from the Minden range.

One of my most memorable summer holidays as a youth was spent in the shades, reading about Frederic the Great and the Seven Years War. While my buddies from school was hanging around at the local football ground or at the beach, I was parked in a comfy chair working my way through the dramatic life story of this young poet turned warrior king.

The 3rd Guards Battalion closing in on the fortified Austrians.

Frederic’s actions would affirm Prussia’s entitlement to European grand politics, after coining the concept of, and later fighting out a typical “German” two front war, building a legacy as the greatest of the enlightened monarchs.

GMB offers spectacular flags for the Seven Years War.

Frederic’s most perfectly executed battle has always, in my opinion, been Leuthen on the 5th Dec 1757, where a force of 36.000 Prussians flanked and beat 80.000 Austrians. Feats like Leuthen echoed greatness, and left subsequent leaders as Napoleon inspired, while offering tactical blue prints of mastery for warfare textbooks used in the 19th Century’s military academies in both Europe and the USA. 

3rd Guards Battalion trying to breach the gate into the churchyard.

I imagine that, as young cadets at West Point, great commanders like Lee and Grant would have studies and admired Frederic’s skilled use of the terrain at Leuthen, dreaming of one day copying such a feat…

Careful usage of terrain helped Frederic deceive the Austrians,
keeping his flanking march masked until the very last moment. 

Leuthen was the stuff of legends, and greatly helped to ad the prefix of “Great” to Frederic’s name and memory, but Frederic did not do it alone. Like his father before him, and like later great German commanders like Moltke the Elder, he enjoyed one of Europe’s most perfectly drilled armies. Perhaps the finest regiment of his army was the Guard.

Frederic presses forward, forcing the Austrian line to turn, 
with battle converging at Leuthen.

The Prussian Guard Regiment was first formed in 1688 as Regiment No 15, with the main part of the soldiers being protestant, or Huguenots, who had fled Catholic France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes three years earlier. The regiment saw action during the Spanish War of Succession and took part in the famous battles of Blenheim and Malplaquet. 

The battalion marches forward, 
perhaps flanking the Austrians yet again...

As Crown Prince, Frederic was given the grade of colonel at the 15th infantry regiment, and thus when he later became king in 1740, the regiment was garrisoned at Potsdam and raised to the position of Guards, with First Battalion acting as Life Guards to Frederic, sorting under his direct command. 

Carl Röchling's amazing painting of the 3rd,
storming the Austrian position in the churchyard.

3rd Battalion of the Guards took part in the battles of Roßbach, Leuthen, Hochkirch, Liegnitz, Torgau, Burkersdorf and Reichenbach along with a series of sieges during the Seven Years Wars, but their charge at Leuthen was epic. Immortalized in paintings by artist Carl Röchling, the 2nd and 3rd battalion of the Guards stormed a cemetery in Leuthen held by the Austrians. Eventually committing his entire left wing, Frederic and the Prussian army carried the town, and the day at Leuthen.

Frederic joins the Guards, thanking them for the successful outcome of the battle.
Allegedly a soldier then started singing "Nun danket alle Gott",
resulting in 25.000 troops joining in.

The Guard regiment’s history stretches through the 19th Century, past the world wars, and all the way up to this day, where it acts as “Wachtbatallion” in Berlin. It seemed a very fitting unit to start off my Seven Years War collection with.

Thank you very much for reading!

Tuesday 3 February 2015

A landslide towards larger units: Your opinion please

The new experimental format. 
4 x 75/75 mm bases with 24-28 miniatures per unit.

When I first started out building my Franco-Prussian War collection in 28mm I went with my Napoleonic basing standard of 3 x 40/40mm bases per infantry unit, with 4 miniatures per base, it resulted in a unit size of 12 miniatures. 

For my ACW collection I started levelling up a little with the addition of one extra base, making it 4 x 40/40mm bases per infantry unit, so unit size was now 16 miniatures. It seemed a good standard for battalion-sized games. 

Prussian infantry advancing.
Artwork by Carl Becker.

Then our club project “Lund 1676” came along, and once again unit sizes grew, but this time the bases grew with them. Now, 3 x 50/50 bases made up a standard infantry unit with 6 miniatures per base, giving me a unit size of 18-20 miniatures, with the added drummer and NCO. 

As the units grew in size, so did the impression that the larger units added some extra sense of realism to the table. One thing was certain; the added work was repaid in full with additional visual appeal and increased balance between unit sizes and the terrain around them.

Detail of the Prussian unit. At second thought,
I'd like to thicken the ranks a little taking it up to 7 miniatures per base.

With this in mind, and fueled by the wonderful period paintings of Carl Röchling showing massed Prussian infantry surging forward, I decided to take this tendency one step further for my Franco-Prussian War collection. I went with the largest solution yet in terms of bases and miniatures, but in at the same time with the smallest in terms of what the actual bases represent. 

The new and the old.
The old 3 x 40/40mm unit vs the new 4 x 75/75mm unit.

I’m now experimenting with a 4 x 75x75mm standard with 6-7 miniatures per base offering an impressively animated unit with 24-28 miniatures plus whatever terrain you want to build onto the larger diorama sized bases. My intention is that this standard unit will no longer represent a battalion. The battalion will now be broken down into companies and sections, the basic unit being a section. This means two such 4 x 75/75mm units will count as a company, with their captain attached for command. 

A wall of blue advances.
This is really what I'd love to achieve on the larger bases.
Perhaps with a horseback officer riding among the infantry.
Artwork by Carl Röchling.

With this philosophy of zooming in on the smallest fractions of the army's units, and meanwhile representing them in a larger format will offer games with more realism and “feet on the battlefield” impression I hope. Rather than trying to portray a complete battle in 28mm, it seems much more interesting to replay a historical sequence of a battle on company level, with the right scale and command structure to match it. Say for instance the Guard’s attack on St. Privat village or Von Bredow’s Death Ride.

Detail of the new larger unit. I can't help but think that this bigger unit format
compliment the surrounding terrain better.

With the standard size of 28mm miniatures fast approaching 30mm in actual size, and with the limitations of a “normal” sized wargaming table, I can’t but think this format of 2 or 3 companies aside will feel more realistic and more dynamic rather than trying to fit a historical battle with all the terrain details onto a 28mm scaled table.

Your opinion is needed!

Dear readers, what are your thoughts on this theme and on the development of the 28mm scale. Have you experienced a similar development in basing and what is your view on a supposed rule system that would be for multi-based units, but zoom closer than battalion level and offer a company level game experience?

Thank you very much for sharing your opinions!