The Warp Factor

A knee jerk response? I do hope not!

This piece picks around in the delicate minefield of borderline xenophobia. It has fermented through a series of conversations and exchanges which have on occasion provoked me to address the keyboard in an earnest fashion. Ironically the most recent was a conversation about the great British victory of Waterloo (not this Blog's core period but the straw which sounded 'General Quarters!' and 'man the laptop!').

Having completed all my nerdy research last year to be a guide at Waterloo 200 I felt comfortable in articulating the contra-point: of the 160,000 (approx.) men present on the field on June 18th, 1815, between 5 and 7% were English, about the same percentage were Irish ( ironically most probably in the majority, Catholic Irish) and around 4% were Scots. So, maybe 13% maximum of the total combatants or about 22% of the combined Allied armies (engaged) could loosely be termed 'of the Islands'. Hardly a British victory then. Britain has however 'appropriated' Waterloo and shamelessly used it to make us Brits feel good and at the same time tell foreigners a thing or two about them and about us.

Achtung! Sind sie männer Briten?

Notwithstanding the long running joke on this blog that all rivers of bile lead back to Blenheim Palace, it prompted me to roll back the years by about 100 and recognize that rather than being the puppet master, in this case Corporal John has been an unwitting posthumous puppet! In his name the period of British military awakening 1685-1713 has been used to 'do a Waterloo' 100 years before the big event.

English Fuzileers  - Anyone whistling a patriotic ditty yet?

My instinctive reaction throughout my 26 year continuous interest in the period 1660 -1720 has been to resist the English speaking world's desire to paint the 'British' as in all ways martial, superior to their enemies. Braver, better tacticians, battle winners, inspirational leaders etc .. it is a hugely obvious and to my mind xenophobic trend which unfortunately uses Marlborough as its lance tip and has much traction with a significant body of people.

Scots subsidy troops - a long standing agreement with Holland. 

The English/Scots/Irish/Welsh forces were relatively speaking new entrants into the European competition although many had served in mercenary or subsidy units for the Dutch, Swedes, French and Imperialists since the Thirty Years war and even before.

That suddenly, all military excellence and innovation was emanating from these shores is surely something to be proud of but is it really true? If the platoon firing English-Dutch method was so effective why did the Grand Alliance army lose so badly at Neerwinden and Steinkirk? If the cavalry were so wonderful why were they beaten by Jacobite and French Horse? If the generals were so fantastic why was Luxembourg so successful?

The utilitarian white cuffs a feature of many Scots regiments in home and foreign service

Wargaming has both its roots and core in the UK and consequently self aggrandising propaganda has become part of the tale. Like many countries we don't look further than the end of our coastline for answers and articulate writers peddling their form of the truth have contributed. A point of view, if repeated frequently can become accepted fact against which all challenges are robustly and often illogically rebuffed.. The truth is surely far less well defined than: We are the best at everything and all foreigners are a poor second.

I suspect that remark will be interpreted by many as lack of patriotism, not at all. I just see it as objective and logical. I am patriotic despite the rhetoric not because of it. Since the advent of mass media and cinema Hollywood and the British film industry together with our appalling collective foreign language skills have combined to cut most native English speakers off from valuable non English language sources of information. In an increasingly impatient and superficial world where no one want to put in any effort,  who is going to be bothered challenging what we are fed in 'serious' books?

Whose Guards? King James's? King William's?

Compound this trend with the strong desire in many wargamers to win. It is a game after all like cards or Monopoly or Connect 4. Anything that can give your team the edge is welcome. platoon fire, combat bonuses, Guards rating etc. I have witnessed that starkly with BLB2 and the now infamous (to me at least) All or Nothing charge. I wrote this mechanic as an exception only to be deployed in extremis. It has become the standard operating methodology for cavalry use in the rules much to my frustration.

The glory days of 1704-1709

Why? It gives an edge in combat! Again, about winning! Its transfer to the Optional rules section of BLB War of Three Kings is a deliberate circle of influence' reaction to the high jacking of the rule. Players must now actively discuss and agree its use before invoking it in a game. OK so this is not a BLB 'British' rule but I have been asked before about the dreaded.. 'national characteristics' option which is a perilous path to perambulate.

Laying the foundations for 300 years of campaigning around the globe

The new buzz phrase to describe the dismissal of all other points of view in favour of your own is Post Factual or Post Truth.

I sincerely hope that wargaming does not begin to suffer from this alarming epidemic any further than it has  to date. Much evidence of the trend can actually be found in revisionist American histories of WWII. Folks out there are believing it too!

OK, having pulled the pin on the grenade, I await the bang, smoke, shrapnel and dust!