Friday, 27 November 2020

Madasahatta: “There is nothing a German Officer cannot do”

General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) with his ADC, Trottel, seen on manoeuvres in Germany prior to their transfer to Madasahatta.

When we last visited Madasahatta we had a situation whereby the French had set up a small landing  stage midway along the Northern side of the Ogopogo Delta. This was garrisoned by a detachment of the French Foreign Legion and had been set up to ensure that the flow of French gastronomic comestibles to El Toupee and the French Embassy in Port Maleesh was uninterrupted. The arrangement suited everybody - Makmi Anoffa continued to ‘turn a blind eye’ for as long as he received his percentage. Jacob Geltmeister, the principle German trading partner, was excluded from this cosy arrangement - El Toupee was his enforcer after all - and so, with his boss, General Freiherr Wilhelm Von Boozy, Iron Cross (First Class) - the governor and military commander of the German Colony of Hansaland - they made their plans to disrupt this cushy little number thereby ensuring that French comestibles would attract the higher tariffs (of which a percentage would find its way into the coffers of Geltmeister and Von Boozy).

The German Response

Whatever his shortcomings as an individual (which were many and varied) Von Boozy was no mean commander. He was well aware that any overtly military action would attract the attention of the British and he could ill afford the potential diplomatic repercussions. The honour of the Fatherland demanded some action against the accursed French for this outrage (actually as his income stream for the usual tariffs on French goods had been interrupted, Von Boozy was also a financial pragmatist) and so he resolved to do something about it.

After an exceptionally chilly ice bath, a strenuous workout and a large helping of Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Von Boozy, his faithful Dachshund, Hochhetzen at his feet (being a small dog that was as high as he could reach) and his obsequious ADC Trottel set to work over a large map of the Ogopogo Delta.

Unknown to all but a handful of the German High Command the dense and seemingly impenetrable jungle on the northern side of the Ogopogo river had in fact a long and meandering narrow stream that started due East of Gindrinka’s Kraal and emerged very close to where the unsuspecting French had built their small landing stage. The stream was overgrown and infested with all manner of disease bearing insect life,  poisonous plants, venomous snakes and crocodiles - and that was in the easy stretch - and so was largely unknown and unused. It had been ‘rediscovered’ by the famous Boer big game hunter Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer whilst on a hunting trip and who, at an exorbitant fee, had offered to act the guide for the German expedition. The stream itself could just about support a small launch so Von Boozy would need to use three of these meaning that a platoon would require three vessels with Bloemindeer in the leading craft along with the platoon commander, Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf.

Oberleutnant Dieter Von Trumpf was a highly regarded and efficient officer currently assigned to the 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie stationed at Festung Teufel charged with watching the Breakneck Pass. Is record was exemplary, mainly because he possessed that rarest of qualities - an almost pathological unwillingness to deviate by as much as one iota from the text of the German Army Officers handbook. If it was not in the book then it could not be done. He could be relied upon to follow any orders given to him without question and to the letter. This endeared him to Von Boozy who would not tolerate any displays of initiative from his junior officers. Von Trumpf was fully convinced of the fundamental correctness of German military training and doctrine and through the sacred and hallowed pages of the various field manuals he regularly carried about his person (even, it was rumoured, in the bath!) and via them his oft repeated mantra of ‘There is nothing a German Officer cannot do’ was nothing short of a statement of bald fact. He was also a royal bore of the first order. 

When selected by Von Boozy for command of the landward part of the operation he immediately consulted the relevant section of ‘Schlieffen’s All the World’s Battle Plans’ and drew inspiration from the text therein. Truly he would be striding in the shadow of giants and as long as the right hand sleeve of the right hand man brushed the right hand or northern edge of the waterway all would be well because Schlieffen had said so and his word was gospel.

Isaac Maarten Bloemingdeer (his business card had his name as I.M. Bloemingdeer) was a first rate hunter and tracker and was a well known personality - both on the island and across Africa. He organised hunting parties for the rich, famous and richer still and so his services were eye-wateringly expensive. Von Boozy had nearly turned him down flat until Geltmeister pointed out the advantages to having someone that could actually find his way about through the trackless jungle of the expeditions route. The cost could be written off as expenses and the potential long terms gains far outweighed the short term bill.

The naval side would be rather more straightforward. A German merchantman would anchor in the road stead and would send three small picket boats - with a platoon sized landing party - to attack the landing stage under the guise of ‘clearing out a nest of dangerous pirates and criminals’. The small matter of the French Flag would be airily dismissed as being ‘false colours’. A gunboat was to be made available to support the landing and the plan required the landward assault to arrive simultaneously with the naval one.  This was going to depend on how well Bloemingdeer could navigate the meandering, fever ridden waterway through the heart of darkness....

On the face of it the plan was a sound, if complex one. The French would be assailed from all sides and quickly overwhelmed. The landing stage would be destroyed and any comestibles carried off as seized contraband. In the confusion of battle mistakes are made and the so the party line was that it was all a case of mistaken identity. In the meantime though, the diplomatic part of the operation had began with the first of a series of strongly worded notes to the authorities at Port Meleesh as well as making anti-piracy overtures to the British. Von Boozy considered the diplomatic smokescreen to be of pivotal importance as it was imperative that everybody acknowledged the aggrieved status of the Germans in respect of how badly smuggling was impacting on the finances of the colony (no mention of course being made of Von Boozy or Geltmeister’s involvement in the said trade) and that they had the right to protect their property and the lives of their countrymen, by force if required.

Von Boozy had gambled on the indifference of the authorities in Port Maleesh and that the British would be unconcerned unless there own traffic was in anyway impeded. In this he was correct as smuggling and piracy were almost a way of life in the Arab Concession and the British were far enough away not to be overly concerned by low level German naval activity.

Both the Arab Concession and the British had overlooked one small thing in all this bluster and German sabre-rattling. 

The object of all this diplomatic ‘flam and paradiddle’ was not any old gang of smugglers or pirates - it was the French.

To be continued....


Steve J. said...

Great background 'fluff' David! One small point, snakes are 'venomous', not 'poisonous' ;)

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

It is all coming together rather nicely and I am enjoying building the story. I did not not know the whole venomous/poisonous and glue so many thanks and duly corrected!

All the best,