Monday, 10 January 2011

A bit of background on Syldavia's military

As I see things the Kingdom of the Black Pelican is, or rather has been until recently, a traditional and conservative nation.  However the current reigning monarch, Muskar XII, strikes me as a rather young king with perhaps modern ideas.  The King appears to have been a keen motorist and carried a gun for his own protection. He shows himself to be an actual ruler (if a bit autocratic) rather than a constitutional monarch. It is the king himself who orders the steps necessary to prevent the coup and the invasion.  As a result of this the armed forces would likely be a combination of traditional and conservative typologies alongside more modern forces.  For example, I would expect to see an increasing mechanisation and airpower.  The Syldavian air force is for example still quite small, but I feel that it would make use of relatively modern aircraft.  The mechanisation of the various other arms would also be a logical goal of the young king.  With that said let us then start with an overview of the composition and traditional elements of Sydavia’s armed forces before moving on to discuss the more modernist elements.

Traditionally, the method of raising an army in medieval and the post medieval era was along the lines of what is often referred to as “bastard feudalism”.  Originally, the king could only rely on the support of his personal retinue (although the size of this force could change dramatically throughout the years) and have to enter into alliances with the various powerful dukes in order to persuade them to commit their personal forces to raising of a “national army”. 

That was of course until the reign of Boris III and his military reforms of the 18th century.  Boris implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Syldavia. Heavily influenced by his advisors from Western Europe, Boris reorganized the Syldavian army along modern lines and dreamed of making Syldavia a regional power. The Army had its roots in the meagre feudal forces of medieval Syldavia.  Boris III developed it into a viable standing army, while his son Boris IIII increased its size. King Kromir the Great led the disciplined troops to victory during the 19th century border wars with Borduria and increased the prestige of the Kingdom.

Boris III had begun his military innovations in his Royal Guard regiment during the 1720’s. His friend, Ivan, Duke of Hum, served as the royal drill sergeant for the new Army, in this role he introduced new flintlock muskets, increasing firepower, and the slow march. The new army trained and drilled relentlessly, focusing on the firing speed of their new muskets and formation manoeuvrability. The changes gave the army flexibility, precision, and a rate of fire that was largely unequalled in the region.

Uniforms and weaponry were standardized, and in addition facial hair was to be of uniform length within a regiment; soldiers who could not adequately grow beards or moustaches were expected to wear a false version. The General War Commissary, responsible for the army and revenue, was removed from interference by the dukes and placed strictly under the control of officials appointed by the king.

Boris IIII opened enrolment in the officer corps to all and compelled the dukes, the Syldavian aristocracy, to serve in the army. Although initially reluctant about the army, the nobles eventually saw the officer corps as its natural profession. Until 1740 the common soldiers consisted largely of peasantry recruited or impressed into service, leading many to avoid service. In order to halt this trend, Boris IIII divided the nation into regimental regions. Every youth was required to serve as a soldier in these recruitment districts for three months each year; this met agrarian needs and added extra troops to bolster the regular ranks.  The Army would continue in this model with only limited technical modifications and modernizations (such as weaponry and uniforms) until after the First World War. 

Although all the armies changed their appearance following the War, that of Syldavia probably changed more than any other, going from neglected and outdated to visibly modern in short order. The changes were brought about, in part by the Duke of Travunia who wrote extensively on the subject of modern military doctrine as a result of his experiences observing the First World War as a military attaché in France as well as those of the future king Prince Muskar XII who observed the war from Switzerland.

Despite her small population Syldavia was prosperous for the region. But, unlike other European countries, her military budget was small. Because of her neutrality, small size and location far from the heart of Europe her armed forces were neglected in both organisation and equipment, and she placed much faith in a number of defensive fortresses.  She had no system of universal military service, and her army was recruited by voluntary enlistment and a curious system of short-term regional conscription.

Another permanent problem was continued domination of the officer class by career officers in an army that had not seen action since the border conflicts of the 1850’s and were more interested in their career progression than military matters. As a result officers were often seen as aloof and insensitive to the conditions of the men, 10% of who were functionally illiterate.

If her neutral status caused stagnation in peacetime, the equally looming problem of war with its neighbours was a growing concern for Klow. Borduria had in recent years made no secret of it’s desire to absorb the kingdom into a “greater Borduria”and to use the country as a corridor to the sea.

In 1912, as the Borduria situation became more ominous, Muskar XI had ordered a review of the military, and in 1913 conscription was extended, but only to include one member of each household. The long-term reorganisation was to be completed by 1918, but the War and budgetary concerns intervened.

Equipment had been neglected to such an extent that some of the troops would not have looked out of place in the Crimea. The reforms of 1913 proposed to introduce a completely new uniform, but through reluctance to spend money the plan was not pursued. Instead, minor changes were made to the existing uniform, notably the replacement of the double-breasted tunic with a single-breasted model, but not until the old ones wore out; consequently the two could be seen side by side.

The army’s strength on paper was a far cry from the facts of the matter. Many units were under-strength, conscription was not rigorously enforced, and the Home Guard was not organised or subscribed to with any great enthusiasm.  Estimates of the Regular Army’s nominal strength in 1914 vary, but there were officially seven Regiments of infantry, each of 10 Battalions. A Battalion comprised 3 Companies, each of 4 Platoons, plus a field battery. A Regiment was, in theory, about 3,000 men.

The Cavalry consisted of two Regiments of lancers, one of hussars, a Battalion of cuirassiers, 3 of dragoons, as well as ambulance and support.

Just how many men this amounts to is not straightforward, since some sources’ are ambiguous or confused. What some refer to as the Regular Army was mostly composed of conscripts, since professional, regular soldiers numbered only about 14,000 in a total given as between 21,000 (the cavalry contributed an additional 10,000). The Home Guard’s strength was nominally 40,000, but it is reckoned that about 10,000 at most could be relied upon.  Perhaps the best guess comes from The Military College in Klow, which gives a total of 31,200 in the Field Army and a total including reserves of 24,000.

The standard infantry rifle was the 1888 7.65mm Mauser.  The Guard had an assortment of various other arms. Another indication of Syldavia’s unpreparedness was the availability of only 45,000 rifles. The total number of machine guns was 12.
The Artillery was similarly under-resourced, totalling 24 mostly obsolete guns; each Regiment was intended to have 3 batteries of Krupp 75mm guns and 2 of 9.5-inch howitzers, but only one of the latter had ever been formed.

The Flying Corps had no aircraft and relied on private owners offering themselves and their machines for scouting.  The Army reforms of 1913 simplified uniforms and established a basic dark red for most arms, although some Cavalry maintained some traditional aspects. 

Military reforms of 1924

In the spring of 1924, following the coronation of the new king Muskar XII the Army began the process of totally re-equipping itself. Also part of these reforms was the reorganistion of the Royal Flying Corps and the mechanization of the Cavalry.  The young King being a keen motorist as well as an aviator took an active role in the development of these two arms, while the Duke of Travunia headed up the reorganization of the remainder of the military.

The new uniform, issued to all arms, was French in style but made from olive serge.  The tunic was single-breasted with a standing collar. The greatcoat was double-breasted with falling collar, half-belt at the back.

Trousers were straight-cut for non-mounted units, worn with the traditional Syldavian boot.  Mounted troops and cyclists wore jodhpur-style breeches and taller riding boots.

Officers’ dress was more British-influenced, but retained the standing collar, and officers’ greatcoats varied in detail but were generally similar to earlier styles.

Headgear was an olive fez with a unit badge or national emblem on the front.  By the end of the year the Swiss style helmet came into service for all ranks and units.

A new brown leather belt with integral ammunition pouches was issued to mounted troops and cyclists.

An unobtrusive system of arm of service identification was introduced, using collar patches and the fez. Numbers on the fez and collar indicated the unit, while colours indicated the branch.  This system covered every job in the Army, but these are the main distinctions:

Cap Badge
Regt. Number
Mountain Infantry
Green w/white band
Regt. Number
Flying Corps
Group Number
Company Number
Regt. Number
Independent Cav.
Home Guard
Regt. Number
Royal Blue
Regt. Number
Light Blue
Regt. Number

Mechanisation of the Cavalry

The king sanctioned the creation of the Experimental Mechanised Company, which was formed on 1 June 1924, under Colonel Trovik. The unit was entirely mechanised and consisted of FT17 tanks and assorted armoured cars plus a motorised company of field engineers.  After a period of experimentation it was disbanded in 1929.  In 1930 the Army formally began the conversion of its cavalry from horse to tanks. Although there was some resistance, all but a few regiments were fully converted by 1938.  The units that remained un-mechanised in 1939 were the 5th Zeta Lancers and the 3rd Polishov Hussars. 

The Royal Syldavian Flying Corps

With the growing recognition of the potential for aircraft, the king established the Committee of Royal Air Defence to examine the question of improving the nation’s military aviation in November 1925. The following February the committee reported its findings which recommended that the flying corps be reformed and that it consist of a military wing, a central flying school and an aircraft factory.

The recommendations of the committee were accepted on 13 April 1926.  The Flying Corps' initial allowed strength was 33 officers, and by the end of that year it had 36 aircraft. The RSFC originally came under the responsibility of General Schzlozitch.  By 1931 the RSFC had expanded to 5 flying groups with 125 aircraft (25 Dewoitine D.27 reconnaissance aircraft, 50 Fokker D.XXI fighter aircraft, 40 Fokker C.X light bombers) and 200 officers.

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