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The Enemy At the Gate: Despertaferres read of the week


“The harassed wife dropped her Next carrier bags at the front door. Deftly she pushed open the door and beheld the sight…..”What the hell are you ordering now!!! ” she shrieked!

” oh nothing darling, they are for Rob’s birthday……”

We gamers know of course that Rob’s birthday never arrives. My regular reader will know that the flavour of the month is Eatern Europe in the 1680s. I know it’s not a period familiar with many within the hobby, let alone the wargames fraternity ( unless you are Polish, Hungarian or Turkish of course!


Salute 2016 was the start of this particular project but what happens next is of course familiar to all. Godendag 2016 , the top table was RBS against an immaculate Imperialist Austrian army. I’m now in that stage where I’m trying to find out as much as I can for this period. As a lay slumped commatosed in work, on the shelves behind me was Andrew Wheatcroft ‘s title. I can heartily recommend the book. It really captures the excitement and importance of the period. Andrew’s writing is particularly easy to read. He provides engaging thumbnail sketches of the personalities that so influenced events. For the uninitiated the book is an excellent primer with no prior knowledge assumed ( which is a good thing of course!)

I would like to have seen more maps in the book but then in my line of work, I always do. This is particularly lacking in discussion of the Siege of Vienna. My favourite lecturer at Portsmouth was Ray Riley and he started my interest in the amazing defensive works of the time. Andrew provides some amazing desriptions of the struggle over the walls and bastions. You really get a feel for the smoke clouded battles between greanadiers, towns guard and fanatical Jannisaries .


It was only the last chapter that left a bad taste in my mouth. At the close of the book there is a reference to the links between the Ottoman Empire and the Hapsburgs right up to the First World War. Here I think Andrew makes a step too far.  A number of recent books have looked quite favourably at the Austro-Hungarian empire, Andrew extends that view to the Ottomans. This for me is the weakest part of the book. To be in favour of multi-cultural empires and yet not to see the potential for fracture is an omission. By the early twentieth century the main force was Germany’s drive to swallow up land to the East. The catastrophe of the First World War could not have been avoided if the old empires had somehow been more willing to cooperate, they both joined Germany’s side of course in what may in future be seen as the start of the current Germany/Russia conflict. 

Thanks very much for reading! L’art de la Guerre competition preparation next post!

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4 Comments

  1. It’s a whole smorgesboard of military madness, plus hours and hours of subtitled film footage ( that I’m in my second week of watching! Search for Fire and Sword, Trilogy or “the deluge” on YouTube! You won’t be disappointed ( but you maybe confused😉)

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