Monday, October 31, 2022

Stayin alive...Out of Control*

 So...There I was...Luke AFB Late '70's.  Been a 2LT for a little over a year, got my wings and managed to make it through Fighter Lead-In at Holloman AFB NM without any major issues.  (Good as Pilot Training was, they were more interested in getting you up and getting you down safely than employing the airplane.  Lead-In was to teach you the basics of flying a fighter with a sub-mission of ID'ing folks that really didn't have what IT took to be a fighter pilot. Fortunately I was not in that category.)

I've checked my logbook.  I've flown this particular aircraft. I don't recall her looking this nice. Source


In any case, I'm now at Luke and am in the briefing for my first ride in the Phantom C.  I've got an IP in the back seat, because AF rules say an IP has to qualify a pilot for landing.  IMHO, an IWSO who's got a couple of thousand hours in the back seat can better judge whether the dummy in the front seat is going to land or crash in time to decide what to do.  But...I ain't in charge.  All I want to do is pass this ride and the next and the next...

We've gone over the plan for the mission which includes advanced handling in the area.  In pilot training, this was called "Stalls and Falls", however, the Phantom's Emergency Procedures had two Bold Face procedures regarding Stalls and Out of Control procedures. They were a bit more serious than stalls and falls in the T-37/T-38 They go:

  1. Stick-Forward 
  2. Ailerons and Rudder-Neutral 
  3. If not recovered-Maintain Full Forward Stick and deploy drag chute

 If that did not work, things got a bit more serious.

  1.  Stick-Maintain Full Forward
  2. Aileron-Full with Spin (Turn Needle)
  3. Aircraft unloads- Ailerons Neutral 
  4. If Out of Control at 10,000 Feet AGL - EJECT

 The objective of Advanced Handling was to go through the first two steps in the first section and not need to continue from there.  If you got into the second section, odds of having to complete all 4 steps were significantly higher than winning in Vegas.

But, we're going to the area mostly to burn down gas to get to landing weight.  The mission's primary requirement is for me to learn how to land the beast.  So, we do the stalls and falls, kinda boring really as the IP told me when to "recover" which was WAY earlier than I expected and therefore no big deal. (Later on when I was a qualified Pilot on my second assignment in the Phantom and was fighting an Aggressor in an F-5 and pulled just a "tad" too hard, I had my own demonstration of  why he was reticent.  Suffice it to say I made a "No Chute" landing on that mission.)

So, after the Advanced Handling, we come back to Luke for touch and go's.  The IP is going to demo the first landing.  We come in very fast IMHO, very steep and didn't flare (slow the descent rate just before touch down).  I am a bit concerned.  We land, he goes around then gives me the airplane and says "Just like that, Lieutenant."


I come around, am a little steep, cross over the overrun, creep the power back and add a little back pressure to the stick.  I then hear something unexpected. "Go around, Burners! Burners!"

I slam the airplane into Afterburner, see a positive rate of climb (meaning I'm not going to hit the ground...probably), retract the gear and flaps and wonder what in the world was going on, was there something I missed?

Suffice it to say, the next words out of the IP's mouth did not fit Sarge's acceptable vocabulary list so I'll clean them up a bit.  Something along the lines of  "What the #### were you doing, you ####ing idiot? ####ing trying to kill us? I've got the ####ing airplane, PAY ####ing attention this time."

He goes around and does a repeat of his kamikaze dive attack on the runway, goes around and says "Just like that you ####ing moron or you're gonna pink (flunk) this ride and I'll make sure  your ###ing #ss is ####ing washed out!"

OK, I'm just a 2LT, but...I do have a bit of a temper.  I think (also known as "Showed judgement and did not vocalize") "OK, #ss#ole, Hang on to your socks, cause here it comes."  Pull up to Downwind (Meaning, I do a climbing 180 turn and head back down to the approach end of the runway). Configure Gear and Flaps,  roll off into the final turn, get clearance for a touch and go, aim the jet at the very first brick and don't do anything with the throttles or stick from the time I rolled out on runway heading until touchdown.  

Smacked that puppy on.  The Navy would've been impressed.  Luke AFB's field elevation had to be at least 6" lower.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to write the airplane up as I had to have broken several things.  Push the throttles up to Mil Power (full throttles, no afterburner) and go around.  Pull up to Downwind and as I roll out there, the IP says "Great Job...Do it again!"

That's when my mental conversion from Pilot to Fighter Pilot began. The lesson was "Don't be afraid to fly the airplane to the edge of the envelope if necessary".  That IP became my assigned IP and I flew most of my missions in F-4 school with him or "My" WSO (also an instructor but not a pilot.  He taught me how to fly and employ a "Crewed" fighter.  More to follow on that subject.)

So, juvat, what did this have to do with Sarge's post last week?  Well, in last Tuesday's post, "Tumultuous Tuesday", he made this comment. " In my later years of working on the Phantom, when I had attained the lofty rank of Staff Sergeant, I would have had an apoplectic fit had I beheld a cockpit in such foul condition. I was known to go completely bat-shit crazy at beholding cockpits far less dirty than that. I didn't want any pilot of mine to roll the bird and get a face-full of crap from the cockpit floor."

That reminded me of another lesson from my episode with the F-5.  Upon executing the bold face and deploying the drag chute, my F-4 pitched down (also known as negative G).  Dust, dirt, a couple of screws, an old lineup card and other assorted crap flew up into my face.  On review after landing, I interpreted this as the aircraft expressing her disappointment in my flying skills vis a vis the less capable F-5.  She was explaining that if this were real, there was a distinct possibility that my WSO and I would be eating pumpkin soup under the "kind care" of whomever we were fighting at the time, while she would be splattered over a couple of square miles of somewhere.  She wasn't happy about that and made her displeasure known by vomiting up what seemed like the several pounds of detritus spread on the cockpit floor.

There's something very special about this photo.  BITD, THIS was MY airplane!     Source

I got the message and took it to heart.  But...ever after that, as part of my "G Warmup" maneuvering at the start of a mission, I would be sure to unload the airplane to slightly negative G to see what might be hiding in the various spaces in the cockpit waiting to make their way into my eyes, ears, nose and throat.

To change the subject slightly and since we've been talking about being "out of control", I thought this little musical interlude would be in order..

Peace out y'ALL!

*Composed last Saturday since the Baby Shower for LJW/LJD was Sunday.  I'm going to make myself scarce in that estrogen rich environment.  LJD is doing well and is at 5.2 Lbs as of Saturday.  Mrs. J got her a Doctor Look alike pair of scrubs for Halloween.  Got quite a few chuckles from the staff.



Sunday, October 30, 2022

A Primer - Part Two

The Flag, Albuhera, 16 May 1811
William Barnes Wollen (PD)¹
You're awake before dawn. You've slept out in the open with only your greatcoat and perhaps a blanket for your bedding. If it had rained the night before (as it did at Waterloo), odds are you slept in the mud. The lucky might have straw under them, most were not lucky.

If it was cold then you were probably stiff, with muscles sore from the march the day before, you moved around, pumping your arms and legs to get the blood moving. The smell of wood smoke would be in the air, perhaps the smell of rations being prepared. Maybe a rough stew, maybe some bread. You might have "iron rations" in your pack.

Those, however, were meant for emergency use only, when a hard march had to be performed and there was no time for foraging or drawing rations from the train.² God help you if you touched them without orders. Especially in Maréchal Davout's corps, that man was a big believer in proper logistics.

If this was your first battle you were perhaps nervous, not really knowing what to expect. The old hands would have told you stories, some of them very hard to believe. You noticed the quiet ones, the ones who had done it before and survived. You wondered at their quiet. What was the day going to be like? The youngest ones didn't think of death, they, like the young everywhere, felt immortal. Death happened to others, not to them.

If you were in the infantry, and were smart, you looked to your musket. You made sure you had dry cartridges and that your lock was secure and the flint in good shape. A flint which wouldn't spark was useless.

If you were in the cavalry, you saw to your mount first. Your horse would keep you alive and had to be healthy. The French were somewhat notorious for not taking proper care of their horses. They were often more interested in seeking out something to eat or drink for themselves, perhaps take some time to seek out a bit of loot. The horse could crop grass, right?

The artillerymen would be with their guns. Then, as now, crew-served weapons were manned by men who relied on each other and on their equipment. They tended to fight better than the run-of-the-mill conscripts in the infantry and cavalry. A gunner might find himself too busy to worry about what was to come.

Eventually the drums or the trumpets would signal the men to fall in. Across the way the men might catch a glimpse of their opponents also preparing to fall in and go into battle. More than likely they were too busy listening to their sergeants and corporals as they fell in with their companies, battalions, and regiments.

Now the men are in ranks, they are as ready as they will ever be. They stand on the edge of eternity, many do not know this, but before the night falls, many of them will be dead. Or worse, badly wounded out on the field as night falls with no succor perhaps until morning. If they manage to survive the night, and the scavengers.

It wasn't unusual for scavengers, other soldiers and simple peasants looking for something useful to enrich their lives, to be out at night, searching the fallen. They would search the dead and the not-quite-dead for coins and other valuables. It was not unknown for a wounded soldier to be helped along into the afterlife by the scavengers. It was a harsh time.

But all that lay in an uncertain future, the day had to faced first. The guns would begin to bark and roar, the sound dependent on the size of the gun. The smoke would hang in front of the batteries, gradually thickening to create a miasma of powder smoke. (It's thick, white, and smells of rotten eggs.)

Iron balls would occasionally pass through the waiting ranks, killing and maiming as they went. Good gunners would attempt to bounce their shot before reaching the target, this would spray rock and dirt over the men who weren't hit by the shot itself.

Most of the incoming fire was in the form of solid shot, there would be explosive shell as well, but not as much. Each battery normally consisted of perhaps six guns (firing along a flat trajectory) and one or two howitzers (firing along an arching trajectory). The howitzers fired the shells, if the gunners knew their trade they would cut their fuses so that the shell would explode overhead, showering those underneath with lead balls.

Eventually the drums would sound the advance.

Shoulder to shoulder, you and your fellow infantrymen would step forward, in step, eyes to the front, musket at the carry. If you were in the front rank you might be able to see the enemy, or you might not, it depended a great deal on the weather. If there was enough wind, some of the powder smoke would be carried away, allowing glimpses of the enemy.

You rather hoped that the enemy was already shaken somewhat by the artillery working them over. Some armies in the early period were almost "half defeated³" before you could come to grips with them. You could see them wavering, when the officers called the battalion to halt, to prepare to give fire, those enemy might turn and run at that point.

But many times you would see the enemy present their firelocks and as you marched forward, they would fire.

Lead balls would sing through the ranks, dropping men in their tracks, spraying blood, flesh, and bone fragments over the men nearby. If you were in the front two ranks you would struggle to close the gaps in the ranks while continuing to advance. Men from the third rank would move forward to fill the holes.

"The battalion will halt!" would come the order.


The muskets would be leveled at the enemy, there wasn't much in the way of aiming. Good troops would aim low if they were close to the enemy as the ball would rise for a short ways in its initial flight. At longer ranges you aimed at the enemy's head (or above the head depending on range) because at longer ranges the ball would start to sink. Aim at the head, hit the belly.

On a good day the enemy would break after the first volley. On most days they would return your fire. You would reload as quickly as possible, using the drill hammered into you in training, the steps bellowed out by the sergeants. When all was ready, another volley would be fired. Each time more and more smoke would begin to obscure the field.

Cavalry could ride down on you out of the smoke and you stood no chance. But the cavalry would normally stay clear until they had a good target to go after. Infantry that was starting to drift to the rear. Men who were obviously ready to run. Then, and only then, would the cavalry advance.

First at the walk, Hollywood usually gets this wrong, gradually increasing speed until within fifty yard or so before going into a full gallop. Always keeping the lines in order, Hollywood generally shows a mad gallop with every man for himself, bearing down on the enemy. Not so, for cavalry to be effective, they had to all hit at once, practically as one, to have any impact.

Sabers were useful in cavalry melees, but it was the mass of horse and man together which would break shaken infantry. Only when they began to run, breaking formation as they did so, would the swords begin to rise and fall, reaping a bloody harvest.

If the infantry stood their ground and had the time needed to form square only then would the cavalry be stymied. The men would fire at the cavalry on command, but that had to be timed just right. Most of the casualties among the cavalry would be horses, they are big targets. Hit a horse coming at you when it's too close, and the dying animal will crash to the ground and into your ranks, making a hole which would be quickly exploited by the other cavalrymen.

The idea was to keep the square solid, no gaps, use the fire of your muskets to make the horsemen keep their distance. Which could lead to a new danger.

Squares made very nice targets for artillery, solid shot would plunge through one side and then out the other, killing and injuring dozens of men at a time.

It was a finely calculated dance, for the commanding officers, not for the men in the ranks. For them it was a bloody, smoky, noisy nightmare in which chance played more of a role in survival than any competence as a soldier.

You prayed for sunset, armies didn't fight open field battles at night. If you were on the winning side, the enemy would draw off or flee, leaving you to see to your next meal, to discover who did or didn't survive the day.

If you were on the losing side, you tried to get away. The smarter soldiers would stay with their units, the enemy pursuers would avoid formed bodies and go after those men fleeing singly or in small groups of perhaps five or six men.

Eventually exhaustion would set in on both sides, the pursuit would slacken as the victors needed to eat and rest as well.

For those wounded on the field, they might lie out all night. There was little in the way of medical treatment in some armies. Field hospitals would be set up behind the lines in some armies, but you had to make your own way there. If you could.

Collection of the wounded would often wait until the day after the battle. Men had to suffer long hours before being seen. Wounds in the limbs would call for amputation, in the torso or head was a death sentence. Medicine was very primitive in those days, in some armies (like the Russian) it was almost non-existent for the common soldiery.

Napoleonic battles were nasty affairs, the colorful uniforms we see in the paintings were largely just for parades. Men would cover their caps/shakos/bearskins/helmets with oilskin cloth to protect them from the elements. The infantry wore greatcoats and loose trousers with gaiters.

Most everyone was covered in dirt, dust, and/or mud.

Winning a battle usually meant chasing after the defeated enemy until you could force another battle. Capitals would be taken but usually it wasn't until the enemy army had had enough would the war end. It's tough for generals to lead an army that just won't fight anymore.

In the wars of the Emperor of France, it took all of the powers of Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia working together to eventually bring Napoléon down at the Battle of the Nations outside Leipzig.

Then he bounced back and it took the concerted efforts of two allied armies in Belgium to outlast and eventually defeat the French Army , ending the Napoleonic Wars once and for all.

It was a brutal time to be a soldier.

But when is it ever good to be a soldier in wartime?

¹ A good account of this bloody battle can be read here.
² The supply or baggage train. Some armies had extensive trains, the French typically did not, Napoléon wanted his army to travel light, and fast!
³ Something the Duke of Wellington postulated to explain the long run of French military successes.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

A Primer - Part One

French Light Infantry in Line
Martin Lancaster Photo
Yesterday's post was a taste of what's coming in terms of the Fiction of The Chant. It's not that I don't have anything written just yet, but it struck me (at some time in the wee hours of the morning) that most of you probably know very little about the mechanics of Napoleonic warfare. So I thought that a wee primer might be in order. This is it, well the first part anyway.

The Napoleonic Wars took place from 1805 to 1815. The major powers in Europe at the time were France, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Spain (sort of), and Great Britain. The latter nation essentially financed the entire series of wars, all having started from the heinous act of regicide. All of the powers, save France, were governed by monarchs. Those monarchs had taken a dim view of the French having the audacity to send their sovereign, Louis XVI, and his wife, an Austrian princess by birth, to the guillotine.

They also objected to the French wishing to export their ideas of liberté, égalité, et fraternité¹to their own benighted subjects. Understandably.

The armies of the period were all built up of the same basic unit types: infantry, artillery, and cavalry. The infantry being the most numerous as they were the easiest to raise, equip, and train. As has been true throughout most of recorded history, it was also the infantry who did the bulk of the fighting. As well as the dying.

The main tactical unit for the infantry was the battalion, which was formed by a number of companies, the company being the smallest tactical unit on the battlefield. The size of a company varied a great deal across nations, some being as small as fifty men, the largest composed of approximately one hundred and thirty men.

The number of companies within a battalion varied from country to country as well. The French began the period with nine companies to the battalion which they lowered to six eventually. The size of the battalion in French service was consistent but the number of men per company was increased. The British Army had ten companies per battalion, the strengths of those companies varying from fifty to a hundred men depending on many factors.

Infantry battalions had three basic tactical formations: line, column, and square. The line was for firing, the column was for movement, and the square provided an all-around defense against cavalry. It's worth noting that the infantry companies were always (more or less) in line formation, three ranks of men lined up shoulder to shoulder. If the companies were lined up abreast, the battalion was in line, if they were aligned one behind the other, they were in column, in square they were aligned as the name implies, the actual alignment of the companies depended on the nation. Each country had their own method for forming a square, by the book (the French book) it should take a battalion no more that a hundred seconds to form square. Which may give you the idea that forming square was not exactly simple. It was not. (Do it under fire with charging horsemen bearing down upon you, the commander's timing had to be very good indeed.)

Infantry was the main combat arm, maneuvering as necessary to bring fire upon the enemy with the idea of eventually pressing home an attack with the bayonet. (Which was actually a very rare event, one side or the other would usually break and run before they actually came to blows).

Cavalry was very expensive to equip and maintain (as anyone who has ever owned a horse can probably attest to). They were used for two missions, between battles they scouted ahead of the army and prevented any enemy from scouting their own army, on the battlefield they were employed as a shock force.

The basic tactical unit of the cavalry was the squadron, in theory having 150 to 180 men but in practice more like 100 to 120 men. Squadrons were grouped into regiments of four to even eight squadrons depending on the type of cavalry and the country.

Men with swords on horseback are quite formidable to behold. (There is a reason why police forces employ mounted cops for crowd control.) They are best used against shaken infantry, men who have been bombarded, shot at, and harassed for hours will usually break when a body of formed horsemen come at them with speed and determination. Unless those infantry are very well trained and very well led.

Cavalry were also used on the battlefield to drive off the enemy cavalry and, when luck and circumstance allowed, charge into an enemy artillery battery and saber the gunners who've been shooting at you and yours all the damned day long.

French Foot Artillery
Napoléon began his military career as an artillery officer. He once said, "It is with artillery that war is made." Artillery has long been the biggest killer in warfare (it still is) and there is nothing like it to reduce an enemy's morale (as well as his numbers).

Though artillery is formidable, it is relatively slow to maneuver, at least the bulk of an army's pieces fall into that category, what they called foot artillery. Though the guns, caissons, and support equipment were pulled by horses, the gunners walked. As those guns (caissons, etc.) were heavy and fairly cumbersome, they tended to move slower than the infantry.

There was a species of artillery where all of the gunners were mounted and rode from place to place, their guns were also smaller than those which accompanied the infantry, so they were much more mobile.

They were also much more expensive as you might surmise. It's all those horses, dontcha know?

Artillery then, as now, was used to "soften up" the opposition. Bombard them, kill them, rattle them, make them want to run away. The main targets of the guns were the infantry and the cavalry, counter-battery fire was discouraged as it took a lot of ammunition to knock out an enemy piece. Generals wanted the enemy infantry driven off in fairly short order so that they could advance. The gunners popping off at each other took longer and used lots and lots of ammunition. (Which was hard to haul around, expensive, etc., etc.)

1805, Les Cuirassiers avant la charge
Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier
A Napoleonic battle could be viewed in simplistic terms as a giant game of scissors-rock-paper. Though sometimes the scissors can be the rock, the paper becomes the scissors, etc. You aligned your army with the infantry to the front, supported by artillery in the intervals between units, light cavalry on the flanks, with the heavier cavalry held behind the line to exploit opportunities.

Normally one side was on the defensive, protecting some city or terrain feature, while the other was attacking (wanting to take some city or terrain feature). One side would begin the contest by commencing an artillery bombardment, to soften up the opposition. Napoléon was a big proponent of creating a "Grand Battery" composed of multiple batteries advanced slightly forward of his line to concentrate the fire of his guns on a portion of the enemy's line.

Rattle the enemy, punch holes in his lines, then advance the infantry - supported by cavalry, to attack that line and exploit those holes.

It was noisy, smoke from the cannon and the muskets could quickly obscure the field, if there was no wind then visibility would be measured in mere feet. Units would stumble into each other, often friendly units would fire upon each other.

It was chaos. There were no command decisions transmitted to the troops in seconds, messages were scribbled out, sometimes under fire, then an aide would carry that message to its intended recipient. Sometimes the messenger would lose his way, sometimes he would be injured or killed on the way, many times his horse would be injured or killed. Wise commanders would send multiple messengers in the hopes that at least one would get through.

What was a battle like for the individual soldiers? We'll explore that tomorrow.

¹ Liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Friday, October 28, 2022

We March!

The French garrison of Preveza marches towards Nicopolis,
before the battle in 23rd October 1798.

Felician Myrbach
Sergent Alexandre Bataille hesitated outside the hut that he had called home for nearly two  years. He no longer lived there as he had been promoted just a week ago.  The hut now "belonged" to Caporal Gautier Poulin who had been promoted the same day. Now the hut, and it's eleven occupants, belonged to Poulin, who stepped into the sunlight before Bataille could tap on the door.

"Alexandre! What brings you to our little home? Miss the old times?" Poulin was grinning as he said this.

"Ah Gautier, I long for a return to the simpler times, when all I had to do was keep you in line. But I'm here on serious business. The Emperor wants us in the east, to fight the white mice² and their Muscovite allies once again."

"When do we march?"

"Tomorrow, before the sun is up if I know Maréchal Davoust.³"

"Full packs, everything in order, iron rations and all, I trust?"

"Not only that, we'll be drawing a full issue of ammunition. The Emperor intends to march hard and march fast, I'm sure. Heaven help the man who doesn't have what he's issued and only what he's issued!⁴"

"What is that place Caporal?" Soldat Louis Meyer was the curious type. A big farm boy from some place that Poulin had never heard of.

"Why Meyer, why must you know the name of every stinking village and town we pass through? All I know is that they speak French funnier than you do." Poulin answered.

"I like to learn Caporal, is there anything wrong with that?"

Before Poulin could answer he was shooing the men off of the road as yet another battery of guns needed to pass them on its way up to the head of the column. One of the men had been complaining about having to make a path for the cannon, the supply wagons, the occasional messenger and every now and then some glittering troop of cavalry. Poulin had pointed out that they would be glad of those guns when the enemy came into view.

When they were back on the road Poulin began to tell Meyer that he had no idea what the name of the place was, but Lieutenant Lemoine answered for him.

"The place is called Mons, it was owned by the Austrians, then by us, then by the Austrians, now we own it again. This area has changed hands many times."

Lieutenant Jacques Lemoine was a good fellow, he had been an enlisted man in Egypt, won promotion to Sergeant in Italy, and had been appointed to the Emperor's Consular Guard after Marengo. With the coming of the Empire, and the expansion of the Army, officers were needed and Napoléon took them from the Guard. So now Lemoine was a lieutenant in a line regiment.

He commanded the first section of the second company of the 1st Battalion of the 33rd Regiment of the Line. The newer recruits were terrified of him as he was older and could be as grim a man as most of them had ever seen.

The 33rd was having a problem with deserters, a problem Lemoine thought could be best solved by shooting one or two to encourage the others to behave. He had mentioned that the day before when they had paused to bivouac briefly before hitting the road once more.

"Most of these babes grew up after the Revolution and the hard times that followed." he had said to Poulin, "shooting a couple might teach the rest to shut up and march!"

Marching day after day, with only brief stops during the day and less than six hours of sleep a night, the regiment was now passing through the rolling forested hills of Luxembourg. The men had been cautioned to stay close to their comrades at all times as the locals had been treated rather harshly when the area had been annexed to France.

"They don't speak French here boys, and they have no love for our revolution. I think they still long for their Austrian overlords. They've been known to go after lone soldiers if you give them half a chance. If you wish to live to see the Rhine, you'll stick close to the bivouac at night."

Sergent Bataille knew that one or two of the new lads might try to slip away in the night. He hoped to keep them with the colors, but he knew that for some, any risk was worth taking to get away from the army.

He didn't really understand these new conscripts. Most of the regiment had been in the camp of Boulogne for two long years. drilling, drilling, followed by more drilling. He was glad to be done with that. He had to admit, the training had toughened them all up, there were few stragglers on the march. But the influx of new conscripts in the month before they had set out to the east was hurting the reputation of the regiment. The Maréchal had let it be known that stern measures would be taken unless the regiment could take care of its own problems.

Which is why the battalion commander had detailed Poulin's squad to march at the rear of the column, guarding the seven men who had been caught deserting. They were in chains, marching with their tunics reversed to indicate their status.

Nine had been captured, only seven remained.

The Iron Marshal had had two of the men shot, neither had been a new recruit, one had been in the camp of Boulogne for over a year. Bataille suspected that the older man had decided living in camp was one thing, going out to fight quite another. His companion had been in the camp for perhaps six months. Neither man would be missed. At least not in the 1st Battalion.

Though the bulk of the infantry were still on the march, the cavalry was already across the Rhine near Mannheim. The troops were a bit nervous about not encountering any enemy patrols.

Young Maréchal des Logis⁵ Louis Alain Gaudry sat his horse and scanned the clearing to his front. He had six other men with him, all that the 6ème Régiment de Dragons could spare for this particular area. It was thought that any threat would be from the south, from the Austrians.

Many of the small German duchies and bishoprics wanted to remain neutral in the fight between France and Austria. But the Duchy of Baden, which is where they were, had a number of people who were anti-Austrian in the extreme. An alliance with the revolutionaries from France was preferable to being dominated from Vienna.

Or worse, Berlin.

"Etienne, look there, across the meadow, what do you see?" Gaudry was sure that he saw a small party of mounted men, which could spell trouble.

Cavalier⁶ Etienne Mora leaned forward in his saddle, the man was noted for his keen eyesight.

"A party on horseback, three men and a woman ..."

"A woman?" Gaudry exclaimed.

"Yes Maréchal, a woman. They are civilians, at least they are wearing civilian clothes."

Gaudry thought for a moment, then whistled to get his men's attention. With a gesture, he motioned the men forward. Two of the troopers hung back a ways, preparing their muskets in case they were needed.

As they rode into the open, the party across the way did so as well. Gaudry could see that they were indeed dressed in civilian clothing. The woman that Mora had spotted was very striking. Gaudry thought she was in her mid to late twenties, hair as black as the night sky. Her eyes surveyed the French troopers as if daring them to insult her honor.

One of the men spoke, in very good French, "Welcome to Baden, mes amis. I am Carl Nostitz, a citizen of this place. We want no trouble, in fact, my master has sent a number of us out to help guide you on the surest paths through the Duchy. We also have intelligence on your Austrian enemies."

"How do you know that the Austrians are our enemies?" Gaudry asked.

"How can they not be, Monsieur?" Nostitz said with a wry grin.

"Where are the closest enemy troops?" Gaudry asked, giving the man a hard stare.

"That I personally do not know, however, my master does and is no doubt relaying that information to your Emperor even as we speak. Would you care to follow us into Mannheim? Most of your army is encamped around the city."

Gaudry thought for a moment, then relaxed to an extent. None of their patrols had come across any threat. Even those damned Prussians were being quiet. Probably waiting to see how things went. Why commit when you can let the Russians and Austrians do your dirty work?

"Very well, Herr Nostitz, lead the way. But I assure you, any funny business and you will all most assuredly die." Gaudry pointed in the direction of Mannheim.

He knew that they would be in this area long enough to let more of the infantry close up. He had heard that Davoust's corps was marching hard to gain the city. His troops set a pace worthy of the cavalry.

But where were the damned white mice?

¹ Though this painting is from an earlier part of the period, the uniforms worn by the French infantry in the painting are representative of those worn in 1805.
² The "white mice" was a derogatory term the French had for the Austrian army. The Austrian Army wore white uniforms, "mice" may have been an opinion of their fighting abilities. 
³ Marshal Louis-Nicholas Davout (born d'Avout) commander of the Grande Armée's III Corps. Of which the 33ème Régiment d'lnfanterie de Ligne was a part. "Davoust" was how the name was spelled in the Marshal's lifetime and is the name inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
⁴ Davout was a stern disciplinarian. His men were expected to carry exactly what the tables of organization and equipment said they should be carrying, other generals and marshals weren't as exacting as he was.
⁵ French cavalry rank, equivalent to an infantry Sergent.
⁶ French cavalry rank, equivalent to an infantry Soldat.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Wars of Napoléon - A Novel

Bataille de Wagram 6 Juillet 1809
Horace Vernet (PD)
This weekend I'm planning on getting the prequel into a Word document and see just how long it is. I started that process last weekend and got up to 69 pages before I decided that there were other things I wanted to do that day other than copy a post from the blog, then paste it into Word. Rinse, repeat. Tedious, though not difficult, it was indeed the tedium which got to me.

It strikes me that I need a title for "the prequel," even if I do extend it beyond "Part One." Suggestions are welcome. (Just not Booky McBookface, that's right out.)


I also plan to extract War in the Wild from the blog itself and put it in Word. First to see how long it is, also to review what I've written so far, get to know the main characters again, with the intent of continuing (and eventually finishing) that tale. There may be some method to this madness, Tuna commented (in part) the other day:

How long do you spend writing your war story blog posts? Do you have them already written and you're pulling parts out of a manuscript, or doing it on the fly?

My answer was, of course, "on the fly." Then I had the thought, why not take one of my existing tales and continue writing it in manuscript form, but not necessarily posting those on the blog as I write them. Rather, I would write a lot, then post chunks of that on the blog. That might actually work. I can write in the background (so to speak) and not have to worry about getting something of the tale posted each day. Perhaps get ahead in the game.

I don't know, might be an option.

But sometime in the next cuppla, I think I'm going to start my Napoleonic series. It's hands down my favorite period in history and (bonus here) I already know a lot about the period. Research will be more along the lines of verifying what I remember, rather than explore new ground. Makes the writing go faster, which is why I think Almost A Lifetime seemed to flow as I wrote it. I already knew a lot about the ETO so the research was double-checking my facts.

So why the Napoleonic Wars? Let's get into that next.

To begin, you should read this post, then have a look at this one. Both go far in explaining my interest in the wars of Napoléon Bonaparte.

The plan is to follow a few characters in the various armies of the period, no doubt I will focus on the main combatants: Britain, Prussia, Austria, Russia, and (naturellement) la belle France.

I don't plan to go into the wars of the French Revolution, though I may allude to them at times and have the characters talk about those events as needed to advance the story. This tale will proceed from the days when the bulk of the French Army was encamped along the Channel coast, waiting for the right circumstances to invade England.

Those circumstances never arose, but events in Austria and Russia made Napoléon realize that he had to deal with a looming threat to the East. Orders were dispatched and the forces encamped along the coast ceased to be the Armée d'Angleterre¹ and became La Grande Armée² as they marched east to settle affairs with the Russians and the Austrians.

For the first installment we'll march with the French from the English Channel to a windswept snowy battlefield before the Pratzen Heights in what is now Czechia³. On that field, the one year anniversary of Napoléon's coronation as Emperor, the French Army defeated the combined forces of the Czar of Russia and the Emperor of Austria at the Battle of Austerlitz.

As you might guess, there will be Russian and Austrian characters involved as well.

We shall see how this pans out.

I'm excited.

La bataille d'Austerlitz. 2 decembre 1805
François Gérard
Hopefully, you will be too.

¹ Army of England
² The Grand Army
³ Czech Republic

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Pretty Tired of This Shite ...

I, and many others, have been getting these "make money from home" spam emails for a while now. Used to be, they'd spam every post in the last week or so, lately they come in threes. They all used to come from a fictitious individual yclept "Sarah Elizabeth." They now come from multiple sources, Joyce Nelson merely being the latest in a scam dating back a couple of months.

I can mark them as spam, but that has zero effect. To understand how that is supposed to work, let's go behind the scenes.

Now within that circle above is an inverted triangle, that's a pulldown. If I click on that, I can manage the comments on the blog, back to the very beginning as a matter of fact. If I click on that triangle, I get this:

In the illustration above I have selected the pulldown and placed my cursor over the comment at the top of the page. Which presents three buttons (which I've labeled for you):
You can manage a single comment, or you can manage multiple comments at once by selecting "MANAGE," which brings you here:

Selecting multiple comments (by clicking on the poster's icon) you can Remove, Mark as Spam or Remove Content of a comment. "Remove content of this comment," leaves a "This comment deleted" marker which the reader can see in the comments section of the post. I only use this to demonstrate my annoyance. If I'm telling a reader that their comment didn't abide by the rules, I delete the content, then comment on that deletion.

Now I can delete a comment (you can actually delete your own comment) by selecting "Delete" within the body of comments under the post, this will ask if I want to kill it forever (you don't get that option) or just delete the content, leaving the empty shell in it's place with that "This comment deleted" marker. If it's killed forever, it is gone completely, shell and all.

The "Delete this comment" button shown above is permanent, nothing remains.

But "Mark this comment as spam"" is why we're here. Used to be that marking a comment as spam would remove it from the visible comments section and stick it in the Spam folder (selectable from the pulldown). Well, it doesn't do that anymore, near as I can tell, the button does nothing. To kill the spam I actually have to delete it. Which doesn't alert Gargle to mark all future comments of this type as spam and tells Gargle "don't effing show them to me."

Like I said, that's broken. I provided feedback to Gargle, screenshots and everything, and it's still broken. Now Gargle is going through all of my 2014 posts and marking anything with a one word or two word comment as "Spam." So then I have to go liberate them from the Spam bucket or they will no longer be visible on that post.

Do I think this is some evil plot on a grand scale?

Nope, I usually apply Hanlon's razor to things like this.

What's Hanlon's razor you ask?

Glad you asked, it states ...

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Of course, there are times when malice and stupidity go forth hand in hand. Is this one? Given the state of the nation right now, who knows?

But that's politics, a topic I abhor.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Tumultuous Tuesday ...

Sometime after the Earth cooled, and the first primitive life forms began to appear¹, I was in the Air Force, working Weapon Control Systems on the mighty F-4 Phantom, the -C and -D models, juvat flew the latter. (By the way, if you chase the link under the photo, you'll get one of those 3-D look around views, kinda cool. They have the front seat as well.)

The cockpits I worked in were nowhere near as schmutzig¹ as the one depicted above. In my later years of working on the Phantom, when I had attained the lofty rank of Staff Sergeant, I would have had an apoplectic fit had I beheld a cockpit in such foul condition. I was known to go completely bat-shit crazy at beholding cockpits far less dirty than that. I didn't want any pilot of mine to roll the bird and get a face-full of crap from the cockpit floor.

Not to mention that there are certain things in an unkempt cockpit which can gum up the controls. Not good, not good at all. Rather a pet peeve of mine. (No doubt The Missus Herself wishes I took such care in my own lair, the semi-organized mess that it is. But it has the benefit of me knowing where everything is. More or less. And I seldom, if ever, roll that room.)

The renovation continues, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm reasonably sure that it's not a train.

Friday morning I awakened to the sound of drilling, and other construction-type noises. The contractors hadn't planned on coming to the house, but certain materials had come in, which they hadn't expected, so they decided to swing by and work. I had no problem with that, I did bemoan the lack of sleep afforded to me on that day, but I knew that in order to have restful days in the future, the project needed to get done. So I went with the flow.

Turns out the installation of the glass shower door was a "no go." The walls of the house are, apparently, slanted in such a way that from the base of the door, to the top, presented a variance of some 1.5 inches. Not good, especially if the goal is to contain the water from the shower head to the confines of the shower area.

As it's a walk-in shower, using a shower curtain was a big non-starter (that whole keeping the water contained thing, dontcha know?). Specialists will be brought in to measure and make custom glass for our shower. Oh boy, I can't wait to see what that costs.

But enough of the construction stuff, I weary of the whole thing, as does my better half. I got to play supervisor on Friday as she needed a day out with her Korean lady-buddies to try and regain her sanity. A well-deserved break.

For her.

So I drank coffee and worked on my laptop, incorporating edits to the novel, while the two Portuguese brothers worked on the renovation. We all listened to Portuguese music as well, it's better than I expected, even though the accordion starts to wear on you after a while. No doubt they would feel the same way about my bagpipe music.

Fair enough.

Saturday I continued incorporating comments and edits on the novel, most were very good, some were focused on reformatting practically the whole thing to a certain standard. A standard which, sad to say, I really don't care for. Not sure what I'm going to do with those edits. Time will tell.

Sunday I received some more pieces for my Napoleonic addiction -

Le Haye Sainte Farm
Chateau de Hougoumont
Both are on the field of Waterloo

More things to assemble and paint, I'm going to be very busy in retirement!

I'm still deciding what to pursue next in the fiction arena, need to get the first book edits in place, then re-read it to make sure it flows the way I want it to flow. I've gone back and refreshed my memory on War in the Wild, where I left off and all that. I noted that the writing was rather lackluster on the last chapters I wrote. I need to rework those and up my game, or give up the attempt altogether. I still like the book, but I need to focus better. (And do a Hell of a lot more research!)

That being said, life goes on, life is good.

So I've got that going for me.

¹ Ya know, officers.
² Dirty (German)

Monday, October 24, 2022

Pun-Day, Pun-Day

 Ok, Ok, Officially...I got nuttin'

Been kinda a crappy week... literally.  Septic problems at the Guest Houses.  Folks, when the sign says "We're on a delicate septic system, please flush ONLY the toilet paper we provide and avoid dumping bacon grease down the drain"  the translation means "flush ONLY the toilet paper we provide and avoid dumping bacon grease down the drain".  Any further translation will result in "Bad" words being used.

Paid a fairly significant amount of cash to have a plumber show me how to drain the drain field pipes.  Gonna pay an even more significant amount to have them come back and trench the drain field to find where the clogged pipe is and then fix that.  

Guess who's gonna pay for that?

Nope, not me.  Future Guests are.  Wish I could thank that person, in person!

So...In order to get my usual happy-go-lucky me persona back, I spent some time going through our Family's Dad Joke Thread. The Family has been trading Dad Jokes for several years. Gotta bunch of yukster's in that crowd, I do.  But...It's good for a laugh so that will be the subject today.

Hope you enjoy!

For the Mathematicians out there.

For those tight fisted ones out there.

For those of you "Well Dressed" guys out there.


Something for those of you "older" guys to consider doing the next time you visit "That!" doctor. I'm going to.

Speaking of Telemarketers.

For those of you High School Football stars out there.

For the Plumbers out there. (And those of you who wish you were plumbers so you could get one too.)

My septic guy doesn't have one...yet.  It may be my Christmas present to him this year.

For the Star Trek Fans out there. (A three-fer)

If you don't get it, you're not a Star Trek Fan. Skip to the next section.

Now that was FUNNY, I don't care who you are!

For the Computer Geeks out there.  (You know who I'm talking about, doncha?)

For the younger readers out there.

For the "Chefs" in the group.

For the Californian's out there.

For the Texan's out there (You know this is true, doncha')  Read ALL of it.

This probably won't apply to ANYONE reading this blog, but there are some "Out" there and it fits them to a "T".

 For those of you in the North East, beware.

Thanksgiving is coming soon.  Think I'm going to try this Turkey Recipe.

Yes, Beans, I'll make sure Mrs. J doesn't have the carving knife in her hands when I bring it to the table.

Speaking of wives.  Important Safety Tip.

Finally, a "Thinking" man's coffee cup.

Not really a Pun or a play on words, rather....WORD!

There...I feel much better now.

Now that I got that off my chest, a little mellow music to calm the savage beast.

 For those checking up, LJD is down to 3.5 liters of supplemental O2 needed to breathe.  The ventilator has been removed and her lungs are pulling that O2 level on her own, no mechanical assistance.  Was at 4 liters last week.  That measurement is one of the key ones for "Going Home".  Zero, AKA breathing on her own, is the goal.  NICU staff is VERY happy.  I understand little of what they try to explain other than "She's doing Good!".  That's good enough for me.

Peace out, All Y'all! I promise I'll be in a better mood next Monday.