Saturday, 2 March 2013

Tinnish Push Bottles up Teutonian Rear

Tinnish Push Bottles up Teutonian Rear
by Nursery Times Correspondent, Melton Mowbray
 The intrepid Mr Mowbray aloft in his balloon
News of the Teutonian (I believe that is how it is pronounced) invasion soon had seasoned campaigner and old Frontier hand Sir Godfrey Wilson-Mainwaring with whatever troops he could scrape together - Regulars and Militia, Guards and Line, Home and Colonial – force-marching to the coast. It was hot work - the heat of a Norfolk February is like a drawn sword, and the clocks were striking thirteen before Sir Godfrey and his men emerged from the plantation, a mile inland from the port. The sight that met them was daunting – from my observation balloon I could see a line of Teutonian Dreadnaughts out at sea and – in the port itself – a brace of sleek gunboats. The enemy had already secured the town, occupied the all-important railway sidings with two regiments – Bavarian and Saxon - and pushed pickets and vedettes inland. Sir Godfrey, however, is made of stern stuff and set-to at once to drive the invaders back to their pea-green boats.

The Indians were the first into action – watched from a nearby eminence by their Commander, Brigadier-General Jones (feared throughout Kafriristan as `Jones the Butcher`) accompanied by his `niece`, Alice. With what pride he must have watched as those brave sons of Empire, Skinner`s Horse, cantered forward – the enemy`s Uhlans didn`t wait to try conclusions but turned their horses` heads for the safety of the town. Here – for the first time but not the last – was seen the depth of the Teutons` perfidy. As part of their forward reconnaissance they had deployed a motor bicycle equipped with what I am informed is a `machine` gun. Enfilade fire from this infernal machine emptied more than a few saddles but, undaunted, the `Yellow Boys` pressed on.
Typically, the Teutons had sent their Colonials forward to take the brunt of the fighting – hapless Askaris, driven from their jungle villages at bayonet point to serve their brutal masters in a strange and foreign land. It was almost possible to pity them as – hot on the heels of the `Yellow Boys` – the Gurkhas charged home. They caught the enemy among the hay bales - some swift work with the kukri and all was over. Moments later they were waving their bloodied knives in triumph at your Correspondent as he drifted overhead with cries of `Very good, Johnny!`

Soon it was the run of our home-grown hill men as – on the right flank - the Highlanders occupied Old Macdonald`s Farm and - dashing across the farmyard under fire from the railway sidings - set about giving the enemy a taste of their own medicine. With a whizz-whizz here and a whizz-whizz there the Hunnish bullets spattered the farm buildings and a few men fell but the Highlanders` return fire was also taking its toll. Incidentally your correspondent had little difficulty in distinguishing the different sounds of the battle – the Teutonian Mauser makes a dull flat `crack` quite unlike the manly bark of our Lee-Metfords.
It seems our own boffins have been at work on a similar device to the enemy`s `machine` gun – Sir Godfrey had a couple of these in the rear echelons. Rushed forward to the farm, and operated by instructors from the School of Musketry, they were soon making excellent play among the Bavarians. Now the guns were deployed but the years of peace have, I regret to say, taken their toll. The first round fired - by a Naval Brigade gun at the edge of the farmyard – merely made the Bavarians duck, parted the Kaiser`s hair and killed a dun cow by the Red Lion. Once the tars had got their eye in, however, it was a different story. Your correspondent doesn`t know what is smaller than a `smithereen` . Whatever it is, though, it is to these that the enemy`s motor bicycle and its crew were reduced by the Bluejackets` second round. A later round sent the enemy quartermasters` motor car – and its occupants - skyward.
But the enemy`s artillery on our left flank was soon booming out in reply – thinning the ranks of the Rajputs as they moved forward in support of the Gurkhas. Now occurred an incident that will surely go down in the annals of the Tinnish Empire – led from the front by their gallant Rissaldar-Major, Skinner`s Horse advanced – walk trot, charge! – straight at the enemy`s guns. The sons of the Prophet are brave men and true and quite unaccustomed to fear - undaunted by shot or shell they came on in fine style, vaulting the sandbags and spearing the Teutonian gunners where they stood. Let it be said – the enemy`s gunners fought their gun manfully, but all to no avail. Within minutes it was all over and the Hindustanis were cantering back across the sun-baked plain – showing their bloodied lances to the General with shouts of `Dekko, Sahib, dekko!`
Meanwhile Brigadier-General Pike had brought forward two battalions of the Guards – the 2nd Battalion in the new experimental `kharkee` uniform – closely supported by the Trumpton Militia. Now a new factor came into play – from the port the enemy`s gunboats opened up a heavy fire, which continuing intermittently throughout the afternoon, proved murderous and indiscriminate. Their very first salvo landed among the 2nd Guards whose conspicuous uniforms – mud brown among a sea of scarlet – no doubt made them an obvious target. Crowded as they were while passing round the ruins from which Sir Godfrey and his staff were observing the enemy, they suffered heavy losses. Old hands who have been muttering into their whiskies-and-soda that the new uniform `would never catch on` may yet be vindicated. Worse was to follow – leading his Brigade from the front, Brigadier Pike was himself killed by what may have been a Tinnish shell. The whole sorry affair was witnessed with horror by General Jones and his niece - `A soldier`s life is terribly hard` said Alice.

On the Tinnish right, meanwhile, the Highlanders having established their dominance in the firefight and supports – in the form of the Royal North Tinnish Fusiliers and the Toyland Light infantry (smart as whip in their Kilmarnock bonnets) having massed in the farmyard, Brigadier-General Fraser decided to let cold steel decide the issue. With a whoop of joy and skirl of bagpipes the `ladies from Hell` vaulted the farmyard wall and dashed towards the railway yard, with the Fusiliers close on their heels.
It was then that an enemy more dangerous than any amount of Krupp steel assailed our ranks – the machinations of our own politicians. A rumour arose in the rear areas (where else?) - and quickly spread by `latrinogram` - of ructions in the capital - a political coup, with the Cabinet (all the Queens men) ousted by a pro-Teutonian faction. The news caused considerable disturbance among the Guards – more sensitive than most to whispers from the Palace – who for a while halted in some confusion. Not so the Trumpton Militia! Stung by weeks of jibes about `Papa`s Army` they shouldered aside the spick-and-span Guardsmen with cries of `Where are the Queen`s pets now?` and surged forward to form a (somewhat ragged) - line on the Plantation road. Events denied them the chance to cross bayonets with the enemy but they stood their ground like Tinnish men and wrote a glorious page in the history of Saturday Night soldiering.

The confusion in the ranks also affected the tartan Fusiliers on the right who, at first, rather than joining in the Highlanders` headlong charge, swarmed onto a low hill half way across the open ground and set up a desultory fire on the objective. To their right one of our `machine` guns added to the fusillade wreaking havoc among a troop of Hussars and a bicycle unit. Only one man survived this hail of bullets – a portly Jaeger, nicknamed `Schweick` by the troops, who seemed to lead a charmed life. `Even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer` as the rotund Bavarian waddled to safety, rifle at the trail. Meanwhile the Highlanders had reached the railway yard and a brutal hand-to- hand fight began among the wagons. Bavarians and Saxons, Highlanders and – at last - Fusiliers battled it out with no quarter asked or given. For a few desperate minutes it was touch and go before some excellent work with the bayonet on the part of the North Tinnlanders put the issue beyond doubt. To the dismay of both sides that Good Soldier, Schweick, was found beside the railway track practically decapitated – no doubt by a Highland broadsword.
On the left, meanwhile, there now occurred a tragedy. Pinned on the hill by Naval gunfire the Rajputs were unable to support the Gurkhas who had occupied the enemy`s gun position captured earlier by the Yellow Boys. Now it was the turn of the enemy`s horse – Wurtembourg Lancers - who charged into the position which, being open at the back, afforded little cover for the outnumbered sepoys. They sold their lives dearly – taking with them many a Wurtembourger and the horse he rode in on – but the position, bought at such cost, was lost again.

Unknown to our men battling on the ground, but observed by your correspondent there now followed an atrocity which proved – if proof were needed – the measure of men we are dealing with. While goose-stepping about on the roof of a tower known locally as `Hodges` Folly` an enemy naval officer - identifiable among the press of white uniforms, no doubt, by his piggy eyes and ears without lobes – was potted by a local poacher, from an upstairs window of a Fisherman`s cottage. In the orgy of random violence that followed, two blameless news vendors were put against a wall of the cottages and shot. This assault on the freedom of the Press will not go unavenged – the editor of the Nursery Times has already penned a stiff letter to his counterpart at the Kindergarten Zeitung.
Dusk was falling, the railway yard was ours – and Sir Godfrey was preparing for the Big Push, when devastating news arrived. The rumours were true! A pro-Teutonian faction had indeed seized power in the capital and negotiations for a truce were already being conducted. The relieved Teutonians - allowed to maintain a toe-hold in the port – can scarcely have believed their luck. Raging at this `Stab in the Back` Sir Godfrey retired to the `Old Colonial` pub, a few miles inland, to rest and refresh himself, before penning a few words of comfort to Pike`s Mother. Sir Godfrey may rest easy - if stalemate was snatched, at the last moment, from the jaws of victory there is nevertheless much to celebrate here – and if the Tinnish Empire and its Commonwealth should last for a thousand years men will still say `Don`t panic Mister Mainwaring !`  

My thanks to Julian Spilsbury for passing on Mr Mowbray's report.

8 comments:

Bill said...

The headline says it all lol.

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Stirring stuff! Sterling account. Like a silver tea spoon in fact, ahhh hmm hrrmmphm.

tradgardmastare said...

Balloontastic stuff indeed!

Chasseur said...

Tim,
An excellent piece of prose. Weld narrated and «I fancy the balloon!
Jeff

Tim Gow said...

I'll tell Melton his job is safe then...

Tim Gow said...

I'm sure Melton will be gratified to hear it!

Tim Gow said...

The balloon dangled precariously from a light fitting throughout the battle. Commendably, both sides refrained from firing on it.

Tim Gow said...

I quite agree. I will pass on your praise to Mr Mowbray's literary agent, a Mr Spilsbury...