18 March 2012

Schmidtennistan files part 3: Glorious Army

Seven decades ago my grandfather was a child in Nazi-Germany, playing war-games with a friend of his. These games were rather elaborate and involved not only toy soldiers but also diplomacy and even bureaucratic processes of the two countries involved. I found the files containing what my grandfather made up back then and here is the second part of my analysis of them. For the first part, go here.

All that stands in between the people of Schmidtennistan and the undisciplined hordes that the Dreessenistani call their army, is the glorious army of Schmidtennistan. The „War-related“ chapter in the state-file is filled mostly with lists, which gives an impression of how the armed forces were structured and where the priorities within them were placed by the government.

The navy sounds huge, especially when compared with the ground-forces and the nearly non-existent airforce. Whether or not the ships listed had any physical representation in the form of toys that my grandfather and his friends used to fight each other is open to speculation but the listing of ships is accurate, well-kept and precise with names for each ship. Interesting enough, the financing of the navy is part of the archived documents: On the 20th of August 1940, General Admiral Lindenhof wrote a letter requesting the build of three armored ships, two light cruisers, fifteen destroyers and fifteen submarines, furthermore asking for a new coat of paint for all existing ships of his fleet. He argues that the Dreessenistani navy is currently heavily upgrading and already way ahead of what Schmidtennistan has on the water. He suggests that the cost of these acquisitions won't be to high as most materials are already in storage and the financing can be done by collecting donations from the public. This may seem strange from todays point of view but remember that the Schmidtennistani people were flaming patriots (so we assume) and my grandfather probably knew of the Flottenverein, which had financed the German war fleet prior to World War I.

The answer to that request is dated just a day later, signed by General Viktor Duro, who is, as we know by now, dictator/chancellor of Schmidtennistan. Of the demanded ships, he allows for two armored ships, nine destroyers and ten submarines. I find it rather amusing that my grandfather actually made a difference in what was requested and what was then commissioned within his little nation, as he was realistically simulating a military bureaucracy. The letter assumes that the ships should be finished by September the 7th, but the list of ships that follows in the file is dated the 6th, thus raising the assumption that the ships were finished faster than anticipated.

The fleet is mighty, fielding an aircraft-carrier (which is something that Nazi-Germany never managed to finish), named after its nation „Schmidtennistan“, a „large combat ship“ and a ship of the line, both named after Schmidtennistani nobles. The four armored ships are named after cities in China, which I assume means that, since the capital of Schmitennistan is „Tschungking“, are meant to be cities in that country. Two light cruisers are named after sea-monsters, the twelve destroyers are grouped into three divisions, one having the ships named after different types of storms, one after predatory animals, and one with bland German first-names (the last of which, Ulrich, was my grandfathers first name). The twelve submarines are boringly named „1“ through „4“ for the first division, „20“ through „23“ for the second, and „40“ to „43“ for the third.

This massive naval force is when compared to the ground-forces, which I know were actually fully represented by toy figurines that the boys used to play their wars out. This practical reason somewhat hinders the fiction of Schmidtennistan, but if my grandfather could ignore the fact that the crew of one any of the ships in his navy was larger than the entire infantry of the army, then so can we. The ground forces consist almost entirely of infantry units, divided by not only their uniforms and weaponry, but also by what they are doing. This is, of course, due to the fact that they were resin figures that had a static pose and thus only served one function. My grandfather listed them in several categories, generally having a category and then a list of soldiers with their occupations below. I'll spare you the full list but let's go take a look at those categories.

The first one is officars, listing twelve men in typewriter and one added by hand. These guys are the leaders of the army, most including a rank after their position. The next category is music, featuring a dozen men with different instruments. Next up is marching infantry, featuring 19 marching soldiers. Cavalry has a total of nine men on horseback. There are six marching navy sailors and ten marching Jäger (hunter, which generally declares light infantry in German military) in their respective categories.

Very important for the actual war on Dreessenistan are the next categories. First there is „Fighting Soldiers“, listing ten prone and firing soldiers, ten kneeling and firing and seven standing and firing. There are specialists, like a wire-cutter and a gas-alert soldier, heavy weapon support-soldiers armed with weapons like a flame-thrower or a machine-gun, a total of 48 troops. The next category is fighting Jäger, a dozen assault-specialists by the looks of it. Following the fighting forces is a category that translates loosely to „soldiers at campsite and accessories“. Here we have listed not only soldiers but also equipment such as a tent. Notable here are, besides the wounded soldiers and supplying cooks listed, a dog and even a couple of nurses, the only women in the Schmidtennistan army. All in all the campsite features sixteen men and women. And a dog.

The next category is simply soldiers „in the government building“, one typing on a typewriter, two apparently just sitting around. A slim bureaucracy in this military dictatorship. Following that there is an „Artillery“ section listing five cannons, two mortars, some carts and horses for transport and a total of only six soldiers to handle all of that equipment. „Fortifications“ is interesting, listing three bunkers, a bunker for a cannon, three combat trenches, one for moving about and 27 (!) sandbags. Thus fortified, it shall be impossible for the Dreessenistani enemy to harm Schmidtennistan.

On the bottom of the second page of the army list there are two categories that by normal standards should be their own branches of the forces: „Tanks“, just listing two tanks, and „Airforce“, consisting of a single plane that is labeled with a compound that even by German standards is convoluted and long: Mehrzweckweitfluggroßbomber, translating to multi-purpose long-range large bomber. Why need more?

The forces are severely lacking in anti-air capabilities, I'd say, but besides the diplomatic incidence with the Dreessenistani delegation arriving in a plane armed with a machine gun, there is no evidence that the enemies of Schmidtennistan had any more of an airfoce. Having played a lot of table-top strategy in my time, I can understand. Flying units are a nightmare to play with.

With that we'll end this series for now. If I decipher some of the documents written in Fraktur, I might make another entry if I find anything worthwhile in them. Other than that this series has, I believe, shown that a) my grandfather was an early table-top nerd and b) Schmidtennistan was more than capable of dealing with the enemy in Dreessenistan. The latest entries are fascinatingly close to my grandfathers actual participation in World War II. After returning home from England, where he spent some time after the war in a P.O.W.-camp, he must have found this very folder and decided to keep it. Knowing that he later developed quite a high fascination with his model-train, turning his entire attic into a landscape for it, I guess the kid in him still held a soft spot for his Schmidtennistan. Now it's in the next generation. I'll keep it in the family. Maybe on October 11th, 2037 I'll have a little hundred-year-celebration with my own children...

No comments:

Post a Comment