Thursday, 21 July 2016

19C - War of the Antipodes - Victoria builds an army of conquest

The Victorian army consisted of some infantry companies, cavalry and mounted horse squadrons, horse drawn artillery and some cannon batteries on the entrance to Port Melbourne. Reflecting on the latest review the Ministers said to each other, “it is not an army of conquest and not much of one for defense”. The Victorian PM agreed, "we need something new and exotic, something that can overwhelm the other states and cow them, show them the superiority of Victoria and make them want to be on our side."

A map of Melbourne in 1885

The Victorian PM held a conference with his generals and scientists and they worked out a list of the army’s requirements. They needed:

A force of aerial ships each capable of carrying a company of soldiers or a squadron of cavalry or a battery of artillery.

Heavy assault vehicles for attacking forts and towns

Armoured infantry to support the assault vehicles.

Gatling guns of the latest types.

These supported by their regular infantry and cavalry would secure them.

This force would be capable of travelling the vast distances of Australia and conquering them. The infantry will hold the captured towns and cities while the aerial ships would return to Melbourne for reinforcements and operate as a reserve against any aggressor.

The scientists got to work while the generals intensified the training of the troops. The Victorian PM was able to promise plenty of gold and with this they were able to purchase the Gatling guns, rifles and other weapons they needed plus a plentiful supply of anti-gravitarium and radium.

As the war drums beat in Europe, some of its more farsighted citizens decided that the best place to be would be at the other end of the planet. Each ship docking in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay bought more and more migrants, those with only the shirts on their backs or a little money looking to the goldfields and those with skills and capital starting businesses. Many chose Victoria because it was that little bit further away and the city did not have a history of being a penal colony, as did Sydney or Hobart. Also, the Victorian Grand Exposition of 1880 had shown off the ability and resources of Melbourne and the state of Victoria and had impressed many people in Europe.

These new immigrants gave Victoria the manpower and the capital it needed to expand its army.

One year after the first conference the scientists, engineers and generals were able to display the fruits of their labour to the Victorian Cabinet at Melbourne’s Victoria Barracks parade ground and testing area.

Melbourne Victoria Barracks

The Barracks with the parade ground behind - soon to be the scene of an incredible display.

Aerials with radium engines capable of travelling 1,000 miles before refueling and able to fly at up to 100 miles an hour!

Essendon Armoury Magnetic Mobile Units EAMMU’s the emus are capable of moving at 10 miles per hour over rough ground and are armoured against rifle and machine gun bullets.

Armoured vests and helmets for heavy infantry, protecting them from head to ankle from rifle bullets and artillery shrapnel

The Cabinet was stunned by the ingenuity of the weapons and their fearsome abilities.

The Victorian Army on the Parade ground

A close up of the five Infantry battalions

The Victorian Artillery and Gatling Guns - two commanders in the background

The Victorian Mounted Rifles

The EAMMUS - emus to the troops

The Victorian Armoured Infantry battalion - Commanded by Colonel Kelly.

A Victorian Infantry Battalion - smaller than its NSW rival but still twice as good

A close up of a EAMMU - Gatling guns on the wings and a cannon in the chest. The commander rides up in the neck and the gunner sits in the body. A tail of steam generated by its radium engines escapes from a chimney at the back.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

19C - War of the Antipodes - Background

The discovery of anti-gravitarium in 1865 and then of radium in 1868 led to an up ending of the world’s political order. Within a generation the British Empire’s Royal Navy fleet was extinguished as a civilising force. The Battle of Dogger Bank in 1885 between the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and the Franco-Prussian Aerial Fleet ended in a draw and with a terrifying casualties’ toll for both fleets.
The Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet was principally sea based but with radium powered steam engines. The Royal Navy used its supply of anti-gravitarium to power smaller patrol ships of the sky that used the battleships and their new ‘carriers’ as bases.

The Franco-Prussian Fleet took a different view. With no institutional sailing legacy to protect, they used all their anti-gravitarium for a smaller number of large flying battleships, powered by radium steam engines. Their battleships could land on water but did so only to pick up new supplies or refill their water tanks that were used to supply their radium engines with propellant.

Battle of Dogger Bank

The Battle of Dogger Bank proved that the ability to move in three dimensions was a real winner when fighting similar sized craft who could only move in two dimensions. The Royal Navy fought very bravely and had caused the Franco-Prussians great damage but in the end the Royal Navy had only the battleship HMS Indestructible left fighting with a few small flying patrol craft in support.
The remaining five battleships of the Franco-Prussian Fleet circled around the Indestructible swatting away the small Royal Navy flyers. Captain Fisher of the Indestructible shouted down to the engine room to give him all the power they had, remove the safety stops. Everything! The engine room crew went to work and the power rose and rose, the Indestructible gaining speed and fighting bravely against the circling enemy. First one of the Franco-Prussian flying battleships exploded, and then another. Fisher dared to dream of escape or even victory. The French admiral of the Franco-Prussian Fleet cursed, he did not want this battle snatched away from him at the last moment. Eager to get a devastating victory over the hated English and erase two hundred years of naval defeats he signaled his fleet to fly closer to eliminate this final enemy.

Just as the remaining Franco-Prussian flying battleships closed to 1,000 meters for their final assault that would surely destroy the last Royal Navy battleship and provide a shattering victory to the continental powers, the Indestructible’s engines went critical. A blinding flash of light and a mushroom shaped cloud visible for over 100 miles marked in apocalyptic terms the site of the battle. Only one Royal Navy patrol boat survived, saved by being in the shadow of the French Battleship Austerlitz when the fireball from the Indestructible’s explosion crushed all before it. The patrol boat was able to limp back to Scapa Flow and report to the Admiralty of their “victory”. Within two weeks all the men of the patrol ship were dead and the last survivors of the battle were gone.

Cease Fire

After this terrible battle all the countries at war were agreeable to declaring an armistice, while they hurriedly re-armed. Other countries saw the effect of this battle and rearmed accordingly, others saw their chance to make waves while the Royal Navy was rebuilding, and others such as the United States of America saw that they would need to look to their own naval and sea lane defense.

The Royal Navy recalled all its outlying units, only leaving small squadrons at important stations such as Gibraltar, India and Hong Kong. The Australian colonies were left bereft of any support and were told in no uncertain terms to make their own arrangements. Canada was better off as the Empire needed its supplies of anti-gravitarium and radium. While the Australian colonies boasted of their gold fields, these had been greatly devalued by the new elements of power, radium and anti-gravitarium.

Antipodean Panic and Plans

The colonies were in a panic at this abandonment by the Mother country, throwing up their arms in despair. At the best of times the Australian colonies were fearful of every other major power. Aware that being a very distant colony of the British Empire made them easy prey for any country at war with the Empire. During various crisis’s and alarms France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Spain, and the United States of America had all been top of the list of an enemy country likely to invade by the end of next week. The list varying dependent on those countries’ relations with the Empire. Now with Great Britain refusing to protect them at all, the colonies were in a state of panic.

Soon wiser heads began to prevail and all settled down to consider their resources and options. The government of New South Wales reached out to the other Australian states and to the New Zealand government and suggested an alliance and pooling of resources. Surprisingly they were rebuffed by all. Each of the other governments were younger, although not by much, than the NSW government and none wished to risk losing their recently gained sovereignty and, with their recent abandonment by the Empire, none had any faith in any other political entities. All of them decided that they could only rely on themselves.

In Victoria, a state just recently granted self-governing status, the forceful Prime Minister and his cabinet looked at their resources and considered the possibilities. A federated Australia run by NSW was unthinkable and a probable disaster, but an Australia run by Victoria was much more acceptable and could possibly be the start of a great new South Pacific Empire. The Prime Minister reminded his cabinet colleagues that it was in times of great change that great men appeared and set the course of history. “Let us be those Great Men!” he thundered.

Accordingly they laid their plans, first Australia and then the world – or at least that part of the world in the South Pacific. They would be able to ensure the safety of Victoria and its people by first controlling the near states, then the Australian continent and then by building an Empire around it. New Zealand to the east, New Guinea to the north Tasmania to the south and a great Indian Ocean fleet to protect the west.

Once this had been done, what else could they do? Everything south of the equator and east of Africa and west of South America shall be theirs! “And maybe one day” the minister of culture shouted “it will just be everything south of the equator!” “Hurrah” shouted the rest of the cabinet. The Prime Minister laughed and returned his colleagues to the present “First New South Wales must be ours!” he scowled.

The map used by the Victorians for their planned assault.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

BBQ Knight

Slowitticus, the Hero General of the Knights of Y assembled his men in their usual formation. The battlefield was ideal for the Knights, flat and straight. A gentle hill just below their castle would enable them to get some momentum up as they charged towards the goblin horde that was lurking between two small patches of wood.

The Knights of Y rode into their positions, General Slowitticus in the centre, flanked by the pure of thought paladin, MT Head, and his fellow Hero Lowique (who was a close cousin of the general). Further to the left and right were the Knights of Y, and on each flank were the Apprentice Riders.

View of the battlefield from behind the Knights of X

Slowitticus thought aloud, the only way he could, “When the goblins run for the woods, send in the riders to flush them out for the knights to kill!”

The Riders happily chattered with each other, boasting of how they would distinguish themselves and make the leap to a fully-fledged Knight of Y. No longer would they have to carry the carbine of cowardice, they wanted to carry the lance of pride.

In the line the Knights were quiet. They knew what they were up against. An evil and devious foe, well led and numerous. The Knights took comfort in their superior training and weaponry, their faithful horses and their brave leaders.

The smarter Knights wondered at General Slowitticus' comments at the feast the night before. If the goblins were so stupid and cowardly, why was this nearly the last of the Knight’s castles left on the island? Only the Knights of Z castle was still standing on the northern shore of the island.

Slowitticus surveyed the line of his knights, brave as brave could be. He fully expected to be back in the Castle for an early dinner and had told his servants to ready a feast. All the army was in order so Slowitticus called for his trumpeter, “Sound your horn for the walk!”

The trumpeter raised his horn, and with a loud “blart blarty blart” the signal for the walk was given.

Slowly the line of Heros, Knights and Riders moved forward. To the spectators on the castle wall it was a magnificent sight. The banners were flapping in the wind, the knights' armour glittered in the sunlight and the horses neighed and stamped the ground.

In the Goblin Horde, Neil and Nigel were talking. “I'm starving” said Neil.
“You’re always starving” replied Nigel.

“Do you think the battle will take a long time?” asked Neil.
“Probably a few hours at least” said Nigel. “The last battle last week took forever!” he continued.

“Neil, have you had your breakfast?”
“No I haven't. I couldn't stand another can of Goblent Green. The last can I ate had finger nails and hair in it! The hygiene they use when preparing it must be dreadful.” Nigel um'ed and arh'd but decided not comment on this.

Neil cheered up. “Here they come, soon we are going to eat, and some nice horse as well. I love BBQ horse!” Nigel smiled and checked his weapons for the tenth time. The trouble with his weapons was that there was not much to check. Your average rock generally does not go off. He hoped that in this battle he would finally be able to get a real weapon, like a dagger, or one of those pointy sticks, or even one day, a sword.

He was broken out of his reverie by the sound of his general shouting out the Gobbo battle prayer.

The General yelled:  “Are you hungry!”
The Horde screamed back “YES!”
The General yelled “Here it comes!”
The Horde screamed back “LET’S EAT!”
The General finished the prayer “Amen!”

On the other side of the battlefield General Slowitticus said “Hear that! The gobbos are frightened, listen to their screams!” He turned to his trumpeter and said, “Sound the Charge!”

The Knights advanced on their monstrous enemy and the battle was joined. Below is a series of images from a wizards drone crystal ball.

The knights charge towards the goblins

The Riders chase the Goblin Hordes into the bad going

The Knights line is broken by unexpected bow fire from the Goblins while the riders on the wings are repulsed.
The Knights try to reform their lines but are hampered by inadequate PIPs.
The Goblin archers fire again and recoil some Knights
The Riders race in on both flanks but while  the left is successful the right is destroyed

The Goblins on the right move to flank the Knight Line
The Knights attack but one knight base is destroyed when charging with the General and Lowique is recoiled. Luckily General Slowiticus stays in contact and next turn the Goblins are sure to be destroyed.

The Blue knights are destroyed on the right and the riders are destroyed on the left. But Slowiticus is triumphant as the Goblins before him recoil.

But inconceivably the General is then recoiled. MT Head is killed and suddenly things are looking chancy for the Knights.

The Goblins kill the last rider on the left and move in for the kill.
General Slowiticus is killed surrounded by piles of dead Goblins (or so the heralds sing)
At this point even Lowique can see that things may not be proceeding in a favourable manner for the Knights and it may be necessary to re-group and counter attack at a later time. As only his Red chapter of Knights remain it is an easy decision to leave the battlefield and express their severe disappointment at the failure of the Blue and Yellow chapters.

After the battle Nigel wondered around the battlefield talking to Neil's head and showing him the sights searching the bodies. “Look at that Neil. There is good eating on that horse. It even comes with its own BBQ plate!” Neil looked blankly at the horse, saying nothing. Nigel turned over ten or so bodies before he finally found what he was looking for. “Oh dear, this looks terrible. Um, what can I say Neil, look at your body. You have left it in a terrible state, that spear has gone straight through you and your neck is a mess.” Nigel put Neil's head down while he tried to straighten the body out. Halfway through his endeavours the left arm fell off. “Oh look at that” he said to no one in particular.

“OK Neil, I leave you here with your body and hopefully it will work out. Come and see me if you get sorted, OK! See you soon I hope.” Nigel strode off towards the nearest fire where some Goblins were cooking a horse. He held onto his new dagger and patted his new sword that was tied to his waist humming a happy tune.

Later on when the Goblins were asleep, some wagons came up and started collecting the bodies of all the Goblins and men who were left on the battlefield. Just peeking from under the banner saying Goblin Grave Commission was the small green cylinder logo of the Goblent Green Company.

Lying under a pile of goblins, crushed and hurting from where a well aimed rock had struck his face, Slowiticus groaned and asked for water. The goblins collecting bodies moved over to him and carried him to the cart. “Thank you” groaned Slowiticus. The goblins asked his leader, “Shall I kill him boss?” “No just leave him, he will be fresher at the factory.” the leader replied. They stacked the remaining bodies over Slowiticus and these drowned out his cries. Eventually, the cart full, they took off for the factory.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Steam Valley Chapter 5 - The Professor and Rex

Professor Oscar Brockwurst of Hamburg in Germany found a cryptic chart in an old manuscript. After spending many days deciphering it he was eventually able to do so with the help of his nephew Axle Rosey.

The professor took his expedition to the place in Iceland and it led through a series of vents in the Earth’s crust to a mysterious world deep underground. Here the Professor and his team found reptiles from the age of the dinosaurs.

After many adventures the professor and the expedition managed to escape through a volcano that erupted in Sicily. On the way the professor had raided some nests of the dinosaurs and escaped with a number of eggs that he managed to keep intact throughout the rest of his journey. He carried one large one while the rest of the team carried the ten smaller ones.

Part of their adventures were caused by these raids and the professor was very lucky to escape from the eggs’ mothers.

When they returned to the surface the professor kept the eggs warm and they eventually hatched after much tender care. The professor used his experience of raising ducklings as a boy to get the new hatchlings to see him as their mother.

After a few misadventures at his home in Germany, where his new pets had ravaged various flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, the Professor and his team moved to the more accepting environment of Steam Valley. Backed by the Prussian government and a Hamburg consortium (who, to be honest, were more interested in getting him far away than making money) he was able finance his move and buy a small farm to house his growing livestock.

The Professor, Prussian Army Liaison, Apple and Sauce and Rex in front of their new home.

The largest of the eggs has grown into Rex, a relatively tame (when the professor is around) Tyrannosaurus Rex. Rex is very lonely and to keep him occupied the professor has got his army troops to dress in little T-Rex costumes so that Rex has someone to play with and doesn’t get lonely or grumpy. The soldiers also provide security for the team.

Rex and his friends

The smaller eggs were Raptor eggs. Having several of each sex the professor has been able to establish a viable breeding group and now is successfully selling males. The professor has kept all the females so that he can keep his monopoly as long as possible.

The raptors race after their leader while the Professor waves them on.
The Raptor races around the sewers of London have been very popular. So much so that there is even talk of the Grand National switching from horses to Raptors.

To protect his monopoly, the professor employs a cunning security team of Herr Apple and Herr Sauce to guard the farm he has rented. Apple and Sauce are cunningly disguised as a Diplodocus dinosaur and they patrol the area for thieves and spies.

Apple and Sauce discuss operations with the Professor
Many of the local boys get jobs riding the Raptors to keep them fit and energetic. Often from the steam trains the passengers can look out the windows and see the Raptors racing alongside.

Their speed and terrifying teeth are opening up opportunities in the military world as well. There have been a few enquiries about raising a light cavalry force of junior cadets to carry out reconnaissance as well as foraging for food for the main army.