Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Austrian 'Wurst' Gun, Crew and Limber

Just completed one of the most challenging models I've put together in some time - one of the Perry's latest releases from their metal range of the Napoleonic Austrian army: the 'WurstKanone' with crew, limber and team.  Its a huge metal model - together with some of the Russian gun limbers, one of the largest Perry's make.  The metal kit consists of six horses, three of which have the 'Fuhrwesen' teamsters molded with the horse, the seven part limber (seven parts!), the 6 pdr gun and four man crew.  

Its a beautiful model and up to the Perry's usual high standard.  The poses of the teamsters and gun crew are fantastic with one leaning on his pommel while his horse crops the grass, another twisting in the saddle - so I've got him talking to the gun crew Kaporal who's probably telling him not to take off before the crew are properly perched on their precarious looking 'sausage seat' on the gun trail (and from whence the gun got its name).  I note there are no handrails or anything to hold onto, just a foot-rail on either side of the seat, so you'd think going at anything faster than a brisk trot could be a tad risky!

Although beautifully made, putting the limber together with its very fine metal parts and the two-piece limber shaft was a real pig! There are plenty of limber pieces - more than you'll need, so that putting the team together even with (if you were a real pedant) fine jeweler's chain is distinctly possible.

There is some flash on it here and there, requiring a bit of clean up with scalpel and fine file before gluing etc. Because of its size (its over 26 cm long) I decided to approach it a bit at a time, including dividing the base into three.  Once I'd finished putting the limber and gun together (the limber over and over again!), I base coated and painted all the figures horses and pieces separately.  Once these were just about finished - I did the mounted teamsters first on the middle base section, removing them from the paint sticks. [A word of warning here: I use a hot glue gun to put 'em on wooden ice cream sticks - don't overdo it with the hot glue!  The horse and figure bases are quite thin and will bend and break when removing them from the paint sticks unless very careful!]  After a few anxious moments I mounted the three teamsters & horses on the main base and let dry while I finished the gun, crew and limber.

I decided to mount up the gun on a separate base so that the limber can be used with or without and with a full six horse team or four (thinking about the size and the room it takes up on the wargaming table here).

The crew mounting up on the 'sausage seat'
The corporal has a word...
A precarious looking enterprise
The idea of just having a limber is so it can deploy behind the battery (once I've finished it!) or be limbered up - (about to be) on the move as it were.  The other piece I've got to go with this is the Austrian horse artillery caisson - it also looks like its going to be challenge!  Artillery batteries with attendant limbers, caissons, extra gun-handlers as well as the guns and crews themselves were an enormous enterprise and quite difficult to represent on the wargaming table.  The sheer room the establishment of a three or four gun battery requires would be just too prohibitive - mind you, if you were of a mind to, Perry's produce all the bits and bobs you'll need for any of the main armies. I did see one done once of a French battery with 'hired help' resting limbers, caissons - the lot.  The full thing looked magnificent but would have taken up a sizeable chunk of an average table!  What I want to do is have that higher level of detail but take up the minimum space.  At least that's the plan!

Four horse team and limber section

Detachable lead team
The gun and crew also presented a bit of a challenge to base separately as the gun trail had to be able to be mounted on the limber as well.  I'll just have to remember to lift it separately when I put it on the table for a game!

Gun base section
The thing to remember is that Austria was the only major army NOT to have true horse artillery!  The 'Wurst Kanone' were the closest thing that they did field - more of a mobile artillery than a true horse artillery.  I don't believe they moved anywhere near the speed of the cavalry they were meant to support - certainly not comparable with the French, Russian, British or even Prussian versions.  Limbered up with crew straddling the long gun seat they reportedly moved at a brisk trot at best.  These were not sprung so you can imagine it would have been a fairly bone-jarring trip across the battlefield before leaping off to unlimber and deploy.  The seat could be removed but it was often left on during action so they could rapidly limber up and move at a moment's notice - even if they didn't travel that fast!  Nonetheless they were a mobile artillery and considered themselves elite artillerymen - the Austrian artillery was never less than proficient and at least as professional as their French opponents, even if tactically they didn't match the French use of artillery.

So, a 'Wurst' battery is a must-have for any respectable Austrian army - one limber down, one caisson and battery to go!