Monday, October 27, 2008

The Marne

I can only report minor progress on this weekend's work... I made two more walls for my sculpey building, dullcoted my Ancient Gallic/British light horse and mounted them to their FOG bases, and finished up my medieval cogs. Next on the list is my 15mm Auxilia.

In compliment to my slow painting progress, I have also been making slow progress through Georges Blonde's The Marne It's a good read, and I have to say that it has helped me get a better perspective on the way the French fought in 1914 and has given me a certain sympathy for the average French soldier. The book details how the officers (even a General at one point) led the charges from the front, and conspicuously walked around out of cover to assuage the fears of their menm (unfortunately, this semed to lead to higher-than-expected officer casualties :-/). There seems to have been no shortage of heroism, although in hindsight (where everybody's vision is clearer), it may have been a little reckless with all those Maxim machine guns the Germans toted around...

The point being that the French did not lack the willingness or courage to fight, and when seasoned, according to British Major-General E. L. Spears, developed more modern tactics fairly quickly, although not heterogeneously throughout the army. The French also seemed to be able to turn from their retreat and attack at times when the Germans had completely written off their ability to form a coherent force. Just the morale effect of turning to fight after a long retreat seemed to reinvigorate much of their army.

Here are a couple of wargaming-oriented tidbits that have whet my appetite:

- According to the book, there were groups of French infantry caught behind the swift German advance. If they were not captured then they could form roving bands of maquis that sabotaged German supply and communication lines. If caught, they were shot as partisan franc-tireurs. Blond states that the most famous of these groups consisted of about 300 infantry raiding in the Ardennes forest, led by a Captain named de Colbert. Eventually he was hunted by two divisions of German Landwehr, who cut a swath of destruction to deprive him of the resources he needed to carry on his campaign. The unit disbanded in December of 1914. Wouldn't that be an interesting campaign...

Also, don't try to Google it - you'll just end up with Star Trek or The Colbert Report.

- On September 6th, the Moroccan Division under General Foch was ordered to advance on Congy, France. The advance would take them through the Marshes of St. Gond, up the road to Congy and into an assault. The Moroccans of the Blondlat Brigade were the forward unit, advancing from from Bannes, located in the middle of the marshes. They silently began their advance at 2:00 in the morning. When they emerged they were greeted by German searchlights and machine-guns, which were joined by rifle and field gun fire, all visible to the command headquarters that had set up on the high ground south of the swamp. The Moroccans attacked through the night and into the morning. 

I'll not say how it ended, but that sounds like a pretty cool scenario -- A night attack by Moroccans through a swamp and up a road guarded by Germans with searchlights. Very cool, and also historical. I need to get some Moroccans now!

The basic set up can be seen on Google Maps for Congy. There is a depressed area (the marsh), hemmed in by high ground in the North (German-held Congy), more high ground in the South (French G.H.Q.), and a Plateau in the west.

If anyone sets up a scenario based on this, let me know! I'd be very interested in hearing how it went!

Until next time!

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