The Queen of the Citadels
(The King’s Germans, Book 3)
By Dominic Fielder
Publication Date: 26th August 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 550 Pages
Genre: Historical Military Fiction
October 1793: The French border.
Dunkirk was a disaster for the Duke of York’s army. The French, sensing victory before the winter, launch attacks along the length of the border. Menen is captured and the French now hold the whip hand. Nieuport and Ostend are threatened, and Sebastian Krombach finds himself involved in a desperate plan to stop the Black Lions as they spearhead the French advance. Werner Brandt and the men of 2nd Battalion race to Menen to counterattack and rescue Erich von Bomm and the Grenadiers, whilst von Bomm struggles to save himself from his infatuation with a mysterious French vivandière.
Meanwhile, dark and brooding, the citadel of Lille dominates the border. The Queen of the Citadels has never been captured by force. The allies must now keep Menen, which guards Flanders, and seize Lille to open the road to Paris. All of this must be done under the watchful eyes of a spy in the Austrian camp. Juliette of Marboré is fighting her own secret war to free Julian Beauvais, languishing in the Conciergerie prison, and waiting for his appointment with the guillotine, as the Terror rages in Paris.
Courtrai: 23rd October 1793
Lieutenant Belvedere had hoped more than expected to find the forces of Count Erbach still safely ensconced in the town of Menen. The further that he and his Prussian guide had ridden north and away from Engelfontaine, the more he had become convinced in his own mind that the threat against Menen was real.
Third brigade had been drawn south from the coast a week earlier, but anything could have happened to it. With the Duke’s own forces well to the south of Valenciennes, news had been scarce. When he found the Count and his command at Courtrai, there was more than a sense of relief in his mind. Such a reprieve was short-lived, with the news that nearly an entire grenadier battalion had been captured or killed during the chaotic events of the previous night. Belvedere’s heart leapt with the guilty relief that it had been the 2nd battalion and not the 1st.
As soon as Belvedere had informed Erbach of the Duke’s instructions, the lieutenant took temporary leave amid the clamour of instructions for colonels to be summoned, to hear the redrafting of a plan that seemed slightly at odds with the reality of the moment. Instead, he picked his way towards the tents of 1st battalion, after receiving the instruction of a Guards sergeant who had been busily haranguing a working party, who were clearly taking far too long to unload a wagon of stores, which would soon become a wagon full of wounded men bound for a hospital somewhere in Courtrai.
There was a sense of reassurance in seeing Keithen, von Bomm’s sergeant, but the officer that he was deep in conversation with was a stranger, dressed in a rather curious blue uniform and high crowned hat, from which a green plume sprouted at the left temple and a large fox tail ran over the dome of the helmet from ear to ear.
He nodded a hello at the officer, also a lieutenant, but addressed Keithen first, necessity coming before rank and good manners.
“Sergeant Keithen, is the captain about?”
“No sir… well yes sir, he’s in there. The surgeon is seeing him now.”
“Is he wounded? How bad is it man?” For once, the gaiety of the cavalier officer’s voice was missing.
“It’s his arm sir. Might be a break, might be worse. The surgeon told him straight, if it couldn’t be re-set, it was as good as useless and would need to come off.
A scream, short but painfully sharp, came from the tent. The three men fell into an awkward silence and waited for the expected appearance of a bloodied surgeon or one of his orderlies. Instead, nothing but a quiet animal whimper from the canvas sheets, a dozen yards behind them and Belvedere felt like an unwanted eavesdropper. He struggled to find some decorum in the moment.
“Where are my manners? Belvedere, 11th Dragoons. On the Duke’s staff.”
“Gilkes, York’s Rangers.”
The two shook hands.
“The Rangers. Thank goodness, we are desperately short of good skirmishers. The duke will be glad to see you in action.” Belvedere spoke, the words meaningless pleasantries while his mind was elsewhere.
“Well, he’s already missed our audition, I’m afraid. We fought alongside the Grenadiers last night.”
“You were there when von Bomm fell?”
“Yes, I suppose so. He and the sergeant here were surrounded. Prepared to die to a man. Damned bravest thing I ever saw.”
“And what happened?”
“Well, we caught the French with their breeches down, took a whole company prisoner and then climbed the hill and poured a volley into the rest. Beginner’s luck. The captain fought off some Frenchies, cut down three or four then one landed on him and that must have been when he injured himself. Not that I could tell at the time. Still carried on leading his company. Brave as a li…” the words died on Gilkes’ lips as the tent curtain thrust open.
A pair of orderlies carried away a stretcher on which the frame of von Bomm lay motionless, pale cheeks were pinched deathly white and only when von Bomm had tilted his head and glassy eyes met theirs for the briefest moment, were the trio sure that he was alive.
The doctor strode towards the men; a knot of comrades waiting nervously for news was a common experience when a soldier faced the trial of the surgeon’s tent.
The sergeant stood ramrod straight to attention.
“Captain von Bomm has asked me to pass on some orders to you. Lieutenant Rausch is to lead the company in the captain’s absence. No doubt a senior officer will be appointed but until that time, you are to offer the lieutenant every assistance.”
All four knew the meaning of the message. Rausch, though capable, was no more than a boy. If no one else was appointed, Keithen would be needed to guide the officer and keep the grenadiers alive.
“Begging your pardon, sir but the captain?”
“Will live, don’t worry, though he will need plenty of rest, and not here. Once I am certain that he can travel, he will be sent to Bruges, I expect. Most of the army is going to winter there, from what I know.”
Gilkes shrugged his shoulders; Belvedere nodded, though the matter wasn’t supposed to be an open secret.
The doctor continued, “Well, he’s lost a lot of blood. I had to bleed him and drain the swelling as best I could. He has a break on his humerus, just below the shoulder and a dislocation of the shoulder too, just to complicate matters. I had to reposition the humerus in the socket before I could splint the arm. Normally, A dislocation is a quick yank and, pop, there you go. But with a break, it was dicey, terribly dicey.”
The doctor looked at the three men and seemed to sense that the medical details had been sufficiently understood, judging by the pallor of the faces of both officers.
“So, he will live?” Belvedere asked, relieved at both the news and the fact that the doctor’s summary had ended.
“Yes. With proper bed rest, the good captain will be ready for the spring. I was with him at Rumes, you know. Devilishly brave there too. I don’t believe all of the other rot that I hear about Captain von Bomm…”
Almost with a sixth sense, the doctor turned. A form, more burns than flesh, was being carried into the tent.
“Ah, one of 2nd Battalion’s officers. I’m afraid there will be little I can do. I’m amazed he has lived this long. Good day, gentlemen.”
With those words, the doctor was gone, followed by sergeant Keithen, who touched his cap in salute to the two officers.
Neither man spoke. The grim contemplation of the doctor’s next task intruded into both men’s thoughts, until Gilkes summoned the words to resume conversation back toward the more hopeful report on their mutual friend.
“So, our Captain has a reputation?” Gilkes smiled, “I like him more and more.”
“You will, I’m sure, Gilkes. And thank you for your timely intervention. Now I must go and find a missing infantry brigade.”
“My pleasure Belvedere. We are rather late to the party, so it seems we have some catching up to do on the glory stakes.”
“The Rangers will have ample chance, sir, ample chance.”
With a cursory handshake the pair parted. Belvedere had found his friend, but Menen had fallen. It was time to find another old friend and take the city back.
Dominic Fielder has had careers in retail and the private education sector and is currently working as a secondary school Maths teacher. He has a First-class honours degree in history and a lifetime’s interest in the hobby of wargaming. The King's Germans series is a project that grew out of this passion He currently juggles writing and research around a crowded work and family life.
Whilst self-published he is very grateful for an excellent support team. The Black Lions of Flanders (set in 1793) is the first in the King's Germans' series, which will follow an array of characters through to the final book in Waterloo. He lives just outside of Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor. where he enjoys walking on the moors and the occasional horse-riding excursion as both writing inspiration and relaxation.