Wednesday 23 March 2022

The Sausage War, Finland 1939

On the night of the 10 December, the 718th Rifle Regiment of the Soviet army swung around the Finnish rear of the Tolvajärvi front and attacked the lightly defended Finnish supply and artillery troops at Varolampi Pond situated along the Korpiselka - Tolvajärvi road.

The surprise attack saw initial success by the Soviet troops in advancing through the Finnish supply lines but failed to continue the assault towards Tolvajärvi village and the Finnish main-lines. The Soviet soldiers were exhausted and hungry after 5 days of forced marching and stopped to eat the sausage soup that the retreating Finns had left behind in their field kitchens. 

This gave enough time for Major Pajari, who happened to be along the Koriselkä road at the time, to muster enough soldiers from the 16th Infantry Regiment along with dispersed field cooks and medics to launch a counter-attack.

Fighting lasted well into the night and involved close quarters combat and one of the only cases of bayonet fighting during the Winter War. By dawn of the 11 December, the counter-attack succeeded in driving back the Soviet force and inflicted heavy casualties with over 100 dead Soviet troops left on the field according to Finnish estimates along with 20 dead on the Finnish side.

The field kitchen and all the figures are resin 3D prints that I did myself.

Saturday 12 March 2022

Charles X’s Wars - volume 1, Armies of the Swedish Deluge 1655-1660

This volume has to be yet another feather in the cap for Helion, providing us with the first comprehensive English language account of the army and wars of Charles XI of Sweden, in particular that event better known in Poland as ‘The Deluge’. Now, this is a quite complicated yet fascinating period of history, and one that needs unraveling to help us understand the events leading up to the war and the war itself. This is the first of three planned volumes on the war, and this one, Charles X’s Wars. Volume 1 - Armies of the Swedish Deluge 1655-1660 by Michael Fredholm von Essen certainly sets the bar high for the volumes to follow. 

The author focuses on the armies that were involved in the ‘Swedish Deluge’, fought between Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Brandenburg-Prussia, Muscovy, Transylvania, the Cossacks of the Ukraine, the Tatars of the Crimea and the Holy Roman Empire. A glance at a period map will show that just about every nation in Eastern Europe was drawn into the war, so researching and writing a book on such a broad subject is to be commended.

After a brief introduction, a very detailed and informative chronology (really handy for those like me who need a few dates to help register what’s being described), together with a very comprehensive gazetteer of the great and the good, by nation. There are also some far more detailed and fascinating biographies of eight of the main contenders, including Charles X of Sweden, John Casimir King of Poland, Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, Tsar Alexis I of Muscovy, the Cossack Hetman, the Prince of Transylvania, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Khan of the Crimean Tartars.

The complex and sometimes misunderstood origins of the conflict are explored and explained before generous chapters are given over to the armies of each of the combatant states. All of these provide a good level of information, including their organisation, troop types, dress, arms and tactics, and where possible, details of the regiments that made up the various armies. Personally I found the chapters on Brandenburg and Tartars, and to some extent the Empire, particularly interesting as they offered a lot of new (to me) material.

The book as a whole benefits from an excellent and prolific range of contemporary black and white illustrations, photographs of arms and armour and a few nice black and white sketches. The star of the book for me are the eight pages of original colour artwork by Ukrainian artist Sergei Shamenkov, depicting a beautifully drawn selection of different troops from the various combatants’ armies.

So, an excellent book, and a tantalising first volume of what will no doubt be a fascinating and information-packed series.

Monday 7 March 2022

‘Rebellion, Invasion and Occupation; The British Army in Ireland 1793-1815.

British military involvement in Ireland during the latter part of the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth is a rather complex and often unpleasant tale. ‘Rebellion, Invasion and Occupation. The British Army in Ireland, 1793-1815’ by Wayne Stack does an excellent job in explaining the army’s role and operations in the field against rebellious Irish and French invaders.

The book makes for a fascinating read, as most of what the book covers is relatively virgin ground for me, which makes it all the better. We start with a detailed section covering the prelude to the rebellion and then the events and battles that took place as it ran its course. No book such as one this size could hope to encapsulate the account of the rebellion completely as it would need as far larger book to do the subject complete justice. However, what it does provide is excellent, and from a wargamer’s perspective it is nigh on perfect, although author quite rightly does not shirk from mentioning the many instances of atrocities that took place throughout the campaign, which helped create the shape of the Anglo-Irish relationship for decades to come.

We then get to the juicy bits of the book; the organisation, location and dress of the multitude of Militia (38 btns) and Yeomanry regiments in Ireland and the large British garrison prior to 1798, made up of regulars and fencible battalions. Indeed the latter played an essential element in the defence of the country, with 12 regiments of fencible cavalry and 34 battalions of fencible infantry serving in Ireland. One detail that had previously escaped me was the fact that a third of the fencible cavalry and two thirds of the fencible infantry were raised in Scotland! No mean feat. Sadly their performance, for the majority, was not good and they proved unfit, ill disciplined, ravaged by sickness and generally susceptible to the rigours of campaigning. Reports of atrocities by them on the civilian population abound, although some few units were up to the standard needed to perform the duties expected of them. (I had to smile at the thought of the Prince Of Wales Fencibles arriving in Dublin, only for the majority to be sent straight back to England as they were judged to be ‘too fat, too small, too infirm and too young’).

A large proportion of the book is devoted to the 1798 Rebellion and the defeat of the French invasion, and these aspects are dealt with in detail, with the descriptions of many of the skirmishes and battles being especially useful. Of course the defeat of a rebellion of such magnitude meant a greater British presence in Ireland, and a rethink of the roles and usefulness of the militia and Yeomanry, especially given the poor showing of the former and general low esteem that the militia were held in by the British commanders in Ireland.

The appendices are a mine of information, covering among other subjects, the garrisons or locations of the vast numbers of largely Catholic militia, mostly Protestant Yeomanry, regulars and fencibles that were called to arms of deployed to face the very real threat caused by the rebellion. There are also half a dozen very useful orders of battle for battles such as Arklow, Vinegar Hill and Castlebar to name but three.

Illustrated throughout with many contemporary black and white illustrations, a good number of very clear and helpful maps, and the usual centre spread of colour plates. One is an original, commissioned for the book while the remaining seven pages are some very colourful examples from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection depicting the uniforms of the many different troops that took the field against the Irish rebels and French, as well as a couple of examples of the Irish and French troops.

This is No 81 in Helion’s From Reason to Revolution series and will definitely find a place on my book shelves. As ever I can recommend this book most highly.