1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 42

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 42

Chapter 20

Osijek, the Balkans

“And you’re quite certain?” Janos Drugeth asked.

“Oh, yes,” replied Doctor Grassi. “There’s simply no way to hide that massive a mobilization. And once something like that gets started, as you know, it’s almost impossible to stop it.”

Drugeth nodded. There was a dynamic power to these things that made them effectively inevitable once a certain point was passed. Could even Zeus have stopped the fleets of Greece once they’d crossed half the Aegean on their way to Troy? And compared to the Ottoman emperor Murad, Agamemnon had been a paragon of prudence and deliberation.

“How soon, then?”

The Ragusan physician shrugged. “Hard to say. You understand that my information is of necessity somewhat outdated — and mostly gathered from a distance?”

Janos smiled. “I don’t expect you to give me up-to-the-minute reports on a Turkish army marching into Mesopotamia, Doctor. Still, your guesses are likely to be reasonably accurate.”

Grassi took a moment to look around the tavern. It was quite full, and noisy enough to make it impossible to be overheard unless you shouted. The clientele was as polyglot as any in the Balkans, and the Ottomans made no attempt here to enforce the Muslim laws against alcohol consumption.

“Have you read the Kinross book?” he asked.

“Yes. Three times, in fact.”

Grassi took a sip of his coffee. Regardless of the situation here, he saw no reason to relax his customary vigilance. He’d gotten by among the Turks for years now, and had even gotten himself appointed as the household physician to several prominent Turkish families. He enjoyed wine and got an occasional bottle from his patron Schmid. But he was careful to drink it only in private.

“Then you know how it transpired in that other universe.”

“Murad launched his campaign in the early summer of the year 1638 — a little less than three years from now, if the calendars of the two worlds can be matched against each other. He left from Scutari, on the Anatolian coast of the Bosphorus. Baghdad fell in December, after a siege of forty days.”

“Yes. From everything I can determine, Murad seems intent to repeat the victory three years earlier — and even more rapidly.”

“Can he do it?”

“Quite possibly, I think. I have not been able yet to get definite information, but I am now inclined to believe that the Turks have either obtained up-time military technology or developed it on their own.”

“Such as?”

“Rifled muskets, for one. I’m almost certain about that. In addition…” The doctor from Dubrovnik hesitated a moment. “They may have developed their own air force,” he said, very quietly.

Drugeth was normally imperturbable. But on hearing that, his eyebrows shot up. “An air force? Doctor, I think that is highly unlikely. I have a far amount of experience with these matters myself, and it’s not so easy as all that to duplicate the American engines.”

Grassi shook his head. “You’re thinking of the American airplanes. What the Turks would have developed would be… what do they call it? Lighter-than-air, I think.”

“Balloons? Those might be possible, but what… Ah.” Idly, Janos drained his wine glass, staring through the open door of the tavern at the busy street beyond.

“Ah,” he repeated. “There is also such a thing as a blimp. Or a dirigible. I’m not quite clear on the difference. Either way, they are essentially elongated balloons that are capable of being steered. Very slow, however.”

Grassi shrugged. “Such a machine would not need to be quick — if its target was a city. Baghdad will surely be much slower. And if my admittedly scanty information is correct, these machines can lift quite heavy weights.”

“I believe that’s true,” said Janos. “Bombs, you’re thinking?”

“That — and the spiritual factor. The Safavids are inclined to mysticism, you know. I do not believe they have paid much attention to the reports coming out of Europe, or given any credence to the ones they have heard. Even though they’re farther away, I think the Mughals are more aware of the impact the Americans have had than the Persians are.”

“I don’t quite understand your point.”‘

The Ragusan smiled. “That’s because you have become more accustomed than you realize to this new world created by the Ring of Fire. I mean no offense, Graf. But try to imagine how you would have reacted five years ago — had you seen mysterious flying machines wreaking havoc in Vienna?”

Janos set down his wine and leaned back in his chair. “Now I see your point. Yes… The Persians might well panic.”

“They don’t even need to panic. Confusion alone will probably be enough to let Murad take Baghdad this year.”

There was silence, for a minute or so. Then Janos rose to his feet. “I must be off now, Doctor. My thanks for your assistance.”

For all the graciousness of his demeanor, it was all Janos could do not to curse aloud.

The Turks attacking Persia. That meant the Austrian emperor would conclude he had no restrictions on his ability to intervene in the war to the north. Which Janos still thought was foolish, whether or not the Ottomans posed an immediate threat.

Besides, who could say what Murad might do the next year — if he was triumphant in this one?

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32 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 42

  1. eqdoktor says:

    Blimps are non-rigid aerostats (lighter than air flying machines) – they do not have internal skeletons (except maybe a keel to hold the gondola) and require internal gas pressure to maintain it’s shape. Dirigibles are aerostats with internal rigid frames that holds everything together. Examples of Dirigibles are the Zeppelins, Hindenburg, R100 & R101 (British Dirigibles).

  2. dave o says:

    We don’t yet know what happened in Brandenburg, although it’s easy to guess. The Saxon war looks like it’s already won.
    Without any direct access, it’s hard to see how Austria can intervene. Through Bohemia? Round about through Poland?
    Problems in either case, especially if the Poles realize that the new weapons make fighting a great risk. It would be smarter of them to stay out, not that they will. And Austria would be smarter to upgrade their own weapons in anticipation of a Turkish attack, which is surely coming. It take time and money to re-equip an army.

  3. dave o says:

    I should have mentioned the possibility of an attack through Bavaria. At last news, Austria wasn’t on good terms with them, but maybe.

  4. TimC says:

    These later Safavids were a pretty hopeless lot, nothing to compare with Shah Abbas the great. Maybe they could do with the help of a steamship in the gulf! SM Stirling’s only good series (how’s that for a contentious comment!) had a dirigible with an engine from a Cessna flying out to Baghdad or Nineveh.

  5. Daryl says:

    @4 TimC, you’re partially right. It was a contentious comment. I’d rate Stirling up with Flint, Weber, and ahead of Ringo; but all good. Draka and Dies the Fire are well worth reading.
    You could put a steam engine on a dirigible but best hope for no headwinds (or sparks).

  6. Brian Stewart says:

    RE: James’ comment #31 on snippet 41. I fully agree that the changes in ‘ordinary’ peoples’ lives is well worth exploring and, if memory serves me correctly, some such (very short) writings have been done by Eric throughout the GG series (I have only read to #5, the non-e-book series). He just does it so much better. His is so much more readable, more naturally flowing than Virginia’s. So much more easy to read. Her style is like putting STOP signs every few hundred yards on a superhighway. Makes no sense to me. As regards events outside the immediate ROF area in central Europe, the possibilities are limitless and extremely exciting. For instance, the native Americans. While they may have translated or orally transmitted versions of up-time histories and their impact on their circumstances, how easy would it be easy to make the adaptions to alter the results. Would enough believe it even necessary? Even if there was a strong groundswell for a specific course of action, might competing courses and personalities tend to negate a concerted effort in a specific direction? Could these histories have a fracturing rather than a uniting effect on a series of societies which, unlike an empire, had no history of acting in a united fashion? Food for thought. South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific islands, all offer an amazing canvas, and the artists have just started mixing the colors. Salute, 16XX Universe!

  7. Blackmoore says:

    This could get interesting, according to wikipedia the Mongols used Rockets to capture Baghdad in 1258. I wonder if the crews on the ground will be smart or accurate enough to target airships with rockets. It appears that a book on the subject was published by Conrad Haas around 1556, and if they had gotten any uptime technical information they could be rather effective.


  8. Jürgen Kuhn says:

    Webscriptions: 1635:TEF Three-Quaters

  9. observerbg says:

    @5 Daryl, in GG #27 to #30 there is a serial titled “No Ship for Tranquebar” by Kevin H. and Karen C. Evans. A dirigible has been flying from Copenhagen to Tranquebar, Southeastern India and back in September-October 1636. With some headwinds and lightnings in the story.

  10. dave o says:

    #7 It’s hard to believe that rockets which could be made in 1635 would work as AA. Until well after WWII, they were simply not accurate enough for anything but area bombardment. See the Russian Katyusha & the German VI & V2. I think they would need a guidance system which means electronics not available at the time. Of course, Airships are bigger and slower targets, but still.

  11. Virgil says:

    Visualize a rocket twice the lenght of bazooka now mount them to firelike 6 at a time they will spread out, so just aim at the very front of teh dirgible, one of those rocket will likely hit,

    Remember also war is one of the greatest incentive to improve your technology

  12. Virgil says:

    Oh just hit me, aerial mines. lol. simple ballons carrying explosive releas the upwind of the dirgiables

  13. @7

    If the airship is as large as a city, this would work. As late as the Napoleonic wars, the British Congreve rockets were effective in bombarding Copenhagen, but not on the battlefield.

    If the airship comes in low, massed musket or rifle fire — the bullet aerodynamics will be helpful — may work. You need to do an awful lot of structural damage to the gasbags to have a significant effect, as the British learned the hard way in World War 1, but killing the crew is adequate. My late grandfather was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. He described an event early in the war in which an airplane came in, a sharp-witted Hungarian officer had adequate time to prepare the men to shoot at the sky, and battalion fire — a thousand rounds or so, all up there at once, brought down the aircraft by killing the pilot. The prior K.u.K. OTS-equivalent comment on airplanes had been ‘It is possible that in this war for the first time airplanes will be used in combat, but no one knows how.’

  14. @11 With all respect, “aim” and “period rockets” are not related.

  15. TimC says:

    @10 AFAIK the V1 and V2 did not use electronic guidance but mechanically operated systems linked to gyroscopes- good enough for hitting a city at long range but not for proximity kills on an airship I must admit!

  16. Blackmoore says:

    Aerial Baloon mines, with a pressure detonator might work.. maybe – i expect the wind would catch them. perhaps Kites with explosives (if you could possibly have a long enough spool of twine, and enough winds to lift the box kite) – or some kind of hybrid to get the explosives up and provide a line to use to detonate. Funny way to take down a zepplin, but it might work. It could be more accurate if you dont have a clue how to make accurate rockets; or enough for a volley.

    The two keys for rockets will be the use of metal tubes to contain the propellant (as the bell shaped nozel is already documented) and the use of fins that can stabilize the fight path. If they have had any access to rudimentary books on model rockets they will have that information

    if they realize there are better propellants, that would increase range. I would not expect them to have anything better than the anarchists cookbook, so there wouldnt be a jump to the level that you would see in use in Paleastine today, but it woudlnt need to.

  17. Todd Bloss says:

    Airships are slow, large and flammable.
    Train pigeons to roost on zeppelin like shapes, when one is spotted in the area, release the birds with a simple thermite charge attached to their feet.

    US did it with bats in WWII against Japanese cities.

  18. Todd Bloss says:

    -For all we know, we did it on the Hindenburg too…

  19. ronzo says:

    Im not entirely up to date on Gazzette stories, but we haven’t heard any news (in the hard copy published stories) on rocket development since 1633 and the wallenstein gambit. Admiral Simpson mentioned something about navy “standoff” rockets being in the development pipeline after it was determined that the rockets in use at Wisemar were only that effective because the boy’s were pretty damn heroic jamming them down the danes throats. However they same type of rockets were used fairly effectively in Prague in an defensive choke point at the battle on the bridge. Two years on I think we should be seeing some major gains in USE rocket tech. Additionally I wonder how the Danish sub project is comming along now that they are allies of the USE and have access to engines, batteries and electric motors.

  20. Blackmoore says:

    @19 Electric would be best, but battery technology available isn’t going to fit well into a sub. (Car batteries would at best last 5 years, and still need to recharge.) With the tech available in 163x you are looking at a very large gooey mess in several pots; just to get some hours of propulsion.

    I would expect to see Diesel as a power source for a sub. many nations currently use it. If they are making motors in the “No Ship for Tranquebar” storyline there is no reason that would prevent that for the Sub.

  21. Todd Bloss says:

    @20 Diesel only would require using a snorkel. You’d still need batteries to run truly submerged. -Not that impossible even using primitive lead acid batteries. Simple lead acid batteries are pretty low tech (but high maintenance). It’s not until you get to zinc, gel and nickel chromium that you need a higher technilogical infrastructure to build them.

  22. Todd Bloss says:

    I mean “technological” -damn spell checker has made me too dependent on it.

  23. Blackmoore says:

    As opposed to Techillogical?

  24. dave o says:

    #17 Thermite requires metallic magnesium. It’s not all that easy to produce. Especially in time for the attack. Especially when you weren’t interested in producing it and don’t know that you’ll need it. In the comments on the snippets and in Grantville Gazette, I see a lot of unrealistic ideas about introducing modern technology. Yes, a lot can be introduced, if anyone has the time and money to do it. But not all at once, and not without sacrificing other technologies. It would be a lot more realistic to introduce 19th century technology and economics, machine tools, factory production, etc, all of which is within range of 16th century technology. Flint knows this and has said it: tools to build tools. I can see someone trying to start a Manhattan project and going bankrupt a year later. For that matter, some one of the powers will probably make one of thousands of wrong guesses on military technology and getting destroyed as a result. See France in 1870 and 1939. Ditto Britain.

  25. Blackmoore says:

    Thermite requires powdered Iron, and powdered Aluminum. and a fuse that would get hot enough to set off the reaction. There isn’t a source for (unoxidized) aluminum in 163x. Magnesium is a good way to get a hot enough flame to start the reaction, but as seen on Mythbusters a pack of matches will do. Unless the Ottomans have found the lost formula for greek fire they wont be pouring therminte (or napalm) from above.

    Molitov cocktails mayhap?

  26. Daryl says:

    Howitzers perhaps. Simply mounting a 100mm (4 inch) howitzer on an elevated carriage with a recoil system (springs & hydraulic shock absorbers) would produce an effective weapon within the available technology base. Should easily reach the required altitude, be accurate, and timed fuses could be developed to give proximity kills. Airships would be slow enough to allow time to reset fuses and correct aim.

  27. Alan Kellogg says:


    It as the Japanese who tried releasing bats against American cities in WWII

  28. robert says:

    @22 If you are using Mozilla Firefox (and why wouldn’t you), then under the Tools menu, click on Options. At the top of the Options Window, click the “Advanced” icon, find the Browsing section in that Window, and check the box that says “Check my spelling as I type.”

    You will now type intelligently.

  29. Daryl says:

    @28 Unfortunately neither that nor the Google toolbar one use an English dictionary but a USA one; thus they spell colour as color, honour as honor (ok as in Harrington though), defence as defense, and many examples that the majority of the English speaking world would regard as mistakes anyway. They also pass correctly spelled inappropriate words.

  30. Daryl says:

    @28 Unfortunately neither that nor the Google toolbar one use an English dictionary but a USA one; thus they spell colour as color, honour as honor (ok as in Harrington though), defence as defense, and many examples that the majority of the English speaking world would regard as mistakes anyway. They also pass correctly spelled inappropriate words.

  31. Todd Bloss says:

    @29 and @30 -Which bit of USA technology is responsible for the double post?

  32. Todd Bloss says:

    @24 apologies, I should have just used the word “incendiary” instead of thermite. -Almost any fire producing agent could be used.
    a simple example would be iron shavings and sawdust, inside a small packet made of paraffin. A couple of drops of acid on the iron filings and you’d have a simple time delay fuse.

    and @27 -Please check your history

  33. Blackmoore says:

    @robert, I don’t think any amount of spell checking will help me write intelligently :P

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