Wednesday, June 29, 2011

...such a bizarre device!?

Barcelona, 27th September 1713

After the solemnial ceremony of blessing the flags for the new Our Lady of Mercy Pioneers Regiment, Marshal Villarroel went to Sants Road along with Dom Benet de Sala i Caramany, bishop of Barcelona, to jointly attend to a new military device demonstration the young lieutenant Friedrich Leibnitz had continually insisted to perform.

On that morning Villarroel had a number of reasons to feel happy and satisfied. Thanks to his brilliant speech to the Spanish prisoners held at Montjuïc castle, the vaste majority of these unfortunate men had decided to get enlisted in that new regiment, thus completing the ranks started by the former Massegur Volunteers. Besides, he had realized about Dom Benet's excitement at the perspective of financing that new unit with Bishopric funds, because its purpose was fully agreeing with their dedication to Our Lady of Mercy -patronness of the Bishopric too. Villarroel believed such initiative would help enforcing a renewed commitment of the Catalan High Clergy around Dom Benet in support of Archduke's Charles cause in Catalonia.

When they arrived in Hostafrancs Plains outside the city walls, under the protective shadow of Montjuïc castle, several people were already waiting for the demonstration. Among them, many of the "Busca" party dignataries, tightly packed around Sir Rafael Casanova. That political leader had always shown a keen interest in military affairs -in such a way that might be plainly considered as interference. Villarroel felt immediately uncomfortable at the idea of having him constantly around, and perceived Dom Benet's own disappointment at his sight. "Normal", he thought, "lowest rank priests are highly sensitive to Casanova's radicalism, whose doctrines risk causing an internal break-off in our Church. Wish bishop Dom Benet finally manages to find some of a half-way solution before it's too late".

However, as a "Honored Citizen" of Barcelona, Casanova was a distinguished and influential personality, so Villarroel considered prudent to greet him briefly. The dignitary politely returned back the greeting, and they jointly waited for Lieutenant Leibnitz explanations...

With his best Royal Catalan Guards uniform on, the young officer was nervously awaiting the attention of the assembled dignitaries. At a point Leibnitz cleared his throat and started his prepared speech: -The experience of recent years has shown that, in all the major battles fought in the Peninsula, one of the most decisive factors in their final result is the difference in physical condition between both sides troops. Under the scorching sun of Spanish summer, those generals managing to keep their troops fresh and rested obtained a decisive factor for victory. This is the intention behind the initiative I'm humbly proposing to you, which is based on a widespread use of this device.

Marshal Villarroel was astonished, he could hardly give credit to his eyes: Lieutenant Leibnitz was showing an odd, small horse-drawn cart, with wheels of an unusually high diameter and an ingenious suspension system through bowing metal strips. That strange carriage had been obviously designed to achieve a high speed. But, what the hell would he want such a widget for?

-Beg your pardon, dear Lieutenant -he said; I can't see what this otherwise clever cart has to do with the Army...

Leibnitz nervously smiled: -General, let's imagine a whole Infantry regiment being carried by such fast vehicles, by which they'd be able to run from a battlefield to the next one with no effort, at a convenient Cavalry speed rate.

-Where would we draw from horses enough for such a function? Equipping all our Infantry with such devices falls beyond our financial possibilities, Lieutenant. -Villarroel argued.

-Not any Infantry, Sire -Leibnitz tenaciously answered. It would suffice equipping alike a few specialized units, in a role not that different of Dragoons... Every cart can carry up to 5 soldiers each, and it needs no more than 2 horses to achieve a reasonably constant speed. That means no more than 200 horses and 100 carts for every 500 men. Less than half than those necessary to a Dragoons regiment...

-...as long as terrain and road network would allow, Leibnitz -Villarroel said, still skeptic albeit intrigued- You know the difficulties such a vehicle would experience in this abrupt Principality...

After the words of his Commander-in-Chief, Leibnitz seemed a bit discouraged, but Villarroel then realized that Casanova had started watching at the carriage with some of a rogue expression.

He understood he had to go in advance of that long-headed politician, and quickly told to Leibnitz: -Listen, my young gentleman: there are still a couple of Spanish prisoners companies who have volunteered for service but had no room so far. I agree in assigning them to you for your revolutionary cart's necessary testings and training. I'm granting to you two months for a complete demonstration of your invention.

9 comments:

Jeroen72 said...

Ooooh, Secret weapons :D

Nice :)

abdul666 said...

It could work, you know! Perhaps only on limited distance -or at 'reasonable' speed only- without changing the horses. As I remember the Imperial Guard was carried from Boulogne to... almost Austria on requisitioned carts, far less 'efficient' than these ones. They remind me of the 'würtz' of Napoleonic times: on 'military' pattern (caisson) the 'crew' 'rode' on it, but a civilian pattern with the passengers sided inside was used for the elderlies, ladies and children following a hunt but not able / wishing to ride an individual horse. Ingenious, specially since Galateans are moving in interior lines.

Soldadets said...

Don't ask me why I thought of such a widget... As a matter of fact, a small box with some exciting Preiser 1/87th scale plastic miniatures devoted to country life came into my hands not long ago.

I felt amused at the perspective of building one of the carts contained in that box, but had no idea on what to do with it... until recalled my forgotten Peter Pig 15mm seated soldiers!

So, cart itself and horses are H0 hard plastics, with a slight modification to add rear seats. Soldiers are Peter Pig's 15mm, and driver is a modified Minifigs 17th century Catalan peasant. Such scale difference helps give the cart an appearance of unusually high and big-wheeled.

I felt tempted to take some advantage of the Austro-German origin of Lt. Leibnitz to give the device a funny name evoking the 3rd Reich "panzergrandieren" -something such as "kutschemusketieren", "kutschedragoners", or so.

But in the end I guessed it was taking the joke too far beyond -or maybe not?

Capt Bill said...

Makes one wonder why no 17th century genius did not think of such transport. Reich Duke Wilhem might steal your idea if suitable figures can be identified...

Soldadets said...

Bill,

I'm persuaded that an eventual Catalan/Galatan War Industry Authority would have no inconvenience in allowing production under license by friendly powers -such as Reich Duchy of Beerstein... ;)

abdul666 said...

"But in the end I guessed it was taking the joke too far beyond -or maybe not?"
Not at all -though I suppose the Galatans would soon translate the name, or use a phonetic transposition (in the same way as for French 'riding coat' -> 'redinguote', 'packet boat' -> paquebot', 'beef steak' -> 'bifteck' and 'Sauerkraut' ->'choucroute'...).

As I commented on 'EvE', could actually work since any Galatan 'Fact reaction force' moves on interior lines.
Don't remember of a regular historical precedent, except for special cases such as the transfer of the Imperial Guard from Boulogne to the Austrian front. What came closer as a permanent organization were the compagnies montees of the Foreign Legion in Algeria with a mule for two men who rode in alternation. They were suppose to keep a more sustained pace, and be moving for extended daily periods, since the men 'rested' while riding; actually the service was exhausting for the men and the mules.

Jeroen72 said...

I can even see possibilities installing small cannon on these vehicles.

Or is THAT taking it to far ;))

Soldadets said...

HA!!

...Kanonekutschemusketieren, then! ...or even Panzermusketieren straightly :D

Eli Arndt said...

I had just had a similar thought when this post came up. I think you must have been transmitting on an open frequency when you thought it up.

-Eli