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#11158 General Quarters 3.3 AAR September 2013

Posted by Adam H. Jones III on 05 November 2013 - 03:07 PM

This is an after action report of a General Quarters 3.3 game played at Recruits convention 2013 in Lee’s Summit, MO on September 14, 2013. The scenario was generated by using the scenario generation system included in the GQ 3.3 rules. The scenario involves a Japanese destroyer transport task force of four converted WW I destroyer transports( PB 2, PB 31, PB 35, PB 36) carrying supplies to a base located in the Solomon Island chain in late August of 1943. Leading the destroyer transports is the light cruiser IJN Abukuma. Escorting the destroyer transports is the heavy cruiser IJN Myoko and a division of four Kagero class destroyers ( IJN Hatsukaze, IJN Yukikaze, IJN Shiranui, IJN Urakaze)with the light cruiser IJN Nagara leading the destroyer division. The night seas are calm with no clouds and a full moon. As the Japanese move through the channels of the Solomon’s toward their objective, they stumble across a US cruiser task force of two heavy cruisers(USS New Orleans, USS Chester), one light cruiser(USS San Diego) and four Sims class destroyers(USS Russell, USS Morris, USS Anderson, USS Hughes). The US task force is sailing to perform a bombardment mission on an island scheduled to be invaded next month. Both forces are surprised to see an enemy task force interfering with their missions:

The US cruiser task force, having organized in line ahead formation, was cruising at twenty one knots; weaving through the island studded channel toward their objective a few hours away. Tasked to arrive in the early morning, the cruisers were scheduled to bombard a Japanese held island to inflict maximum damage on the garrison as preparation for an invasion next month continued. The destroyers USS Russell and Morris led the column followed by USS New Orleans and Chester and USS San Diego. US destroyers USS Anderson and USS Hughes brought up the rear of the column. The admiral of this force was stationed on USS New Orleans. He patiently sat in the command chair on the bridge as the ships quietly glided through the unusually calm waters and clear night sky. The silence of the bridge is broken as the TBS (Talk between Ships) radio crackled to life. An ensign wrote quickly as the TBS spilled forth its report, unintelligible gibberish to the admiral located away from the radio room. The ensign approached the admiral, paper in hand, and reported to the admiral that the lead destroyer, USS Russell, had a radar contact bearing 300 degrees, range 20,000 yards. The contact appeared to be three distinct groups of ships. The admiral nodded as he listened to the report and replied to the ensign to tell USS Russell to continue to track the contact and send updates every five minutes. The admiral turns to the captain of USS New Orleans. He tells the captain to send to all ships….increase to max speed and send the task force to General Quarters!!!
About the time that General Quarters was sounded throughout the US task force, the Japanese admiral on board the heavy cruiser IJN Myoko was still oblivious that a US task force was nearby. The resupply force commanded by the Japanese admiral consisted of two distinct divisions: one was the destroyer transport division of four converted WWII destroyers that had guns and boilers removed to make room for a cargo hold and a landing barge to unload and load supplies to garrisons without harbor facilities. The once speedy destroyers are now slow, eighteen knot cargo vessels that are well suited for work within the confined waters of the Solomon Islands. The destroyer transports had the light cruiser IJN Abukuma escorting them to their scheduled location. The IJN Myoko was not alone. Myoko had a division of four destroyers led by the light cruiser Nagara. The IJN Myoko and the attendant destroyer division were tasked to protect the destroyer transports so they could deliver their precious cargo to the island garrison.
So far, the mission had gone without any interference by the enemy. The Japanese admiral was confident that his experienced sailors would spot trouble in plenty of time. The Japanese heavy cruiser was sailing toward a tight channel between two small unnamed islands to provide a screen as the destroyer transport division transited the gap between the islands. IJN Myoko was intending to hug the shore of one of the islands and swing around the island and hide in the shadow of the island to degrade the ever improving radar on the US vessels. The IJN Nagara and her destroyers were following IJN Myoko to assist in the screening. Just as IJN Myoko approached close to the island to begin her close swing around, lookouts shouted that unidentified ships have been spotted some 20,000 yards off of the starboard bow of the cruiser. At the same time, bright gun flashes broke the darkness from in front of the Japanese heavy cruiser and huge splashes appeared around IJN Myoko. The combination of the gun flashes and lookouts confirmed to the Japanese admiral that a US force was in front of him and had gotten in the first blow.
The US admiral had a clear picture of what he was facing thanks to the magic of radar. A large vessel led a column of ships that approached the channel. If ignored, the enemy column would push in front of his task force. The large vessel was followed by another large vessel and at least four smaller vessels. This was most likely two cruisers leading four destroyers. There was another group of ships with one cruiser target leading four slow moving smaller targets. This force was moving behind the small island. The US task force readied their guns and waited for the fire control director to let them know that they have a visual on the large cruiser target approaching them. The two rear destroyers sped up to maximum speed, swung out from behind USS San Diego and were pushing forward toward the expected battle. Just as the admiral had sorted out all of the data in his head, he heard the fire control director bark that a Japanese cruiser was spotted leading a column of ships visually some 20,000 yards away and requested to open fire…the admiral’s positive response was immediately lost with the boom of the eight inch cruiser guns.
The Japanese admiral did not hesitate due to the intense fire coming from the US cruisers. Calmly, he ordered the cruiser to return fire. IJN Myoko fired back with her forward turrets at her shooters with unknown effect. The US fire as well was not hitting anything. The Japanese admiral knew that the string of good luck would not last. The Japanese admiral’s concentration was interrupted by a report that the light cruiser following him had swung out of the line and taking the four destroyers with him. It appeared that the cruiser captain was attempting to close to torpedo range with his charges. The Japanese admiral watched as the column soon faded into the dark heading toward the rear of the US cruiser force. The USS New Orleans and USS Chester ignored the new move and continued to concentrate on the heavy cruiser. The Japanese admiral’s prediction of their luck came true as the US cruisers began to find their target. IJN Myoko took two eight inch hits that smashed into the hull but doing no significant damage. IJN Myoko’s guns were hitting the area around the US cruisers as well but nothing visual was telling the admiral how effective his return fire was. Both sides traded shots that did not seem to do any more significant damage. The US destroyers USS Russell and USS Morris began to fire at the cruiser as well. The US destroyer’s rapid firing 5’ guns peppered the IJN Myoko with multiple hits and did take out two of the IJN Myoko’s secondary five inch AA guns, but most of the hits were ineffective as they could not penetrate the thick cruiser armor.
There is a decisive moment in the flow of a battle that moves the direction toward victory to one side or another. This battle between the Japanese and the US was no different. Here is the tactical situation at the decisive moment for this battle. The heavy cruiser IJN Myoko is steaming at close to top speed toward a small island with the intention of hugging the shore of the island and swing around to use the island’s shadow to decrease US radar effectiveness. IJN Myoko’s move was detected by the US cruiser task force and now the Japanese heavy cruiser is the sole target of every US ship that is firing. The light cruiser IJN Nagara and the destroyer force that was following IJN Myoko has broken away from the heavy cruiser and is streaking toward the rear of the US cruiser line with the intention of launching their deadly cargo of “Long Lance” torpedoes. The USS San Diego and two destroyers located at the rear of the US line have just spotted the Japanese destroyer line and have begun to engage them. USS New Orleans and USS Chester are continuing to fire at the IJN Myoko as the Japanese cruiser steers toward the small island. US destroyers USS Russell and Morris have added their rapid firing five inch guns to the broadsides by the two US cruisers. The Japanese destroyer transports led by the light cruiser IJN Abukuma have been effectively screened by the Japanese warships and have slipped behind the same small island that IJN Myoko is steering toward. So far the destroyer transports have avoided being engaged. Both sides have avoided major damage from each other gunfire although IJN Myoko has taken two eight inch shell hits into her hull and non-penetrating five inch hits have destroyed two of IJN Myoko’s five inch secondary batteries. IJN Myoko continues to fire her forward eight inch turrets at the US cruisers with no telling hits observed. The US cruisers USS New Orleans and USS Chester along with the destroyers USS Russell and USS Morris return fire.
All of the US ships open fire simultaneously sending a blizzard of eight inch and five inch shells streaking toward the IJN Myoko. The eight inch salvos straddle IJN Myoko with two shells striking her. One twenty four inch torpedo mount disintegrates and bursts into flames. The other shell penetrates into IJN Myoko’s hull and adds to the damage already inflicted by previous hits. The swarm of five inch shells adds their effects to the eight inch shell hits. Four of the swarm hit the thickly armored sections of the ship, adding their explosive effects to the sight of the IJN Myoko being swamped by gunfire but doing no damage. The fifth five inch shell, for reason only known to scientist and God, took a slightly higher trajectory toward the Japanese heavy cruiser. While the other shells hit low on the ship, this shell bore in and struck the unarmored bridge of IJN Myoko.
The Japanese admiral was just beginning to send the order to slightly change course to avoid the island when the US five inch shell slammed into the bridge and exploded. The admiral never got to finish the order as the explosion killed all on the bridge instantly. The IJN Myoko continued on her present course and speed…which meant that six minutes later, IJN Myoko slammed aground on the small island.
The US cruisers did not show IJN Myoko any sympathy for her plight as USS New Orleans and USS Chester continued to shoot at the now grounded Japanese heavy cruiser. The US destroyers decided that maybe this is a good time to launch torpedoes at the hapless IJN Myoko. Torpedoes shot out from USS Russell and USS Morris and they appeared to run hot, straight, and normal. The angle of attack however had the torpedoes transit over the shallow reef before hitting the now grounded Japanese heavy cruiser. The torpedoes slammed into the reef and exploded harmlessly.
The balance of the Japanese force watched in horror as IJN Myoko slammed into the island. The will to fight drained from the two division commanders and all decided that this supply run needed to be aborted. The destroyer transport division used the small island as an effective screen and swung to return to their starting point. The IJN Nagara and her charges had just set up to launch torpedoes when the IJN Myoko grounded. The IJN Nagara’s captain aborted the launch and ordered a general retreat.
The US admiral was elated when he saw the result of their last broadsides. Staring at the burning Japanese heavy cruiser cocked at angle as it lay stranded on the reef sent a wave of satisfaction through him. The US admiral did not savor his victory too long as he still had a job to do. The US admiral sent an order for all ships to cease fire and to reform the battle line. The admiral also sent a message back to naval headquarters notifying them of the battle and sent a position report of a Japanese heavy cruiser grounded. The US admiral knew that in the morning, the planes from Henderson field would seek out the cripple and destroy her. The US admiral sat back into his chair and resumed his mission to sail to the island that he was scheduled to bombard in the morning.
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#9320 Playing TSC: Detailed Savo Island Batrep first...

Posted by Aman on 02 December 2011 - 09:23 PM

This is my batrep from our Savo Island fight. Changes I would make to the scenario: no possible carrier strike by Wasp, TBS between USN ships at <20K yards (25% chance of success), free organization and deployment for Allies equalled by free choice of any of three attack vectors, and definite use of the optional IJN submarine attacks. I would also add in the DDs on submarine patrol at the anchorages.

Savo Island Refight and campaign kick-off Batrep

As part of the ODG "The Solomon's Campaign", we fought the battle of Savo Island once, decided that our grip on the rules was poor, and finally refought the entire battle to count for our campaign. For those who are unfamiliar with the original battle and the "battlesea", refer to this:
http://en.wikipedia...._of_Savo_Island

For this refight, since it was impossible to surprise the USN player (after all, we were gathered at the IJN house to play the battle out...) we decided on some flexibility in the "official" scenario. The USN player was permitted to organize his force however he chose, while the IJN player was permitted to attack along any of the three possible approach vectors (Northeast around Savo, Southeast around Savo, or East) to attack either of the two USN supply ship anchorages, the North one in Tulagi Harbor on Florida Island, or the South one at Lunga Pt. on Guadalcanal proper. Either is a good target with 7 or 15 supply ships respectively, as EACH sunk ship results in an advantage for the Japanese to try and win control of Henderson Airfield. The IJN was also given two submarine attacks that could approach on the same three vectors (a historical possibility that didn't happen, but could have).

As the USN player, Her Majesty's Australian Adm. Alexander "Rumrunner" Moore, I carefully considered the options, but it seemed a clear choice to have a strong screening force within Ironbottom Sound (East of Savo) of 6 DD and 2 CL, all six CA patrolling the center line between the two anchorages, and a small 2 DD screen on the East. The East approach is less likely since it would take precious night hours for the IJN to circle Florida Island for that attack. No matter which approach was used, I hoped that my powerful, concentrated force of CA would be able to make an impact on the IJN, even if they arrived late to the action and could only chase the IJN raiders at high speed and damage a couple. Of course my hope was that they would be fully engaged but not surprised, which would make this second Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack less likely to escape unblooded.

The IJN player, Adm. Kenaka Portnersan chose the historical approach. The screening force of USS San Juan* + 3 Bagley DDs, and HMAS Hobart + 3 Bagley DDs in two Divisions (all game terms are capitalized) in a continuous line formation rolled randomly for their placement on their patrol route (a d12 with each number corresponding to the clock) when the IJN came close enough to be Detected on rader. Interestingly, the result put them heading South not far from the passage, but with the Island squarely between them and the IJN! Therefore, the excellent radar on the San Juan was of no use until the IJN rounded the island. At this point the IJN were Detected on radar, and the USN squadron allowed to depart their patrol route to close the distance to the head of the Detected ships. The USN Cruiser force was 50,000y away, so there was no possibility of using TBS (Talk Between Ships) or radar Detection successfully. The IJN were still not Acquired targets, so they just appeared as "Blips" to the Allied ships.

The USN increased speed as well, so soon they closed and managed to Acquire one then a second of the three IJN Divisions. Admiral Portnersaki had three powerful CA in the first, two in the second, and the 2 CL + 1DD in the third. Realizing the powerful ships of the first Acquired Division were CA, the Allied force veered off and began to parallel the IJN from about 5000 to 6000y.

Much gunnery and some torpedoes were exchanged and the Allies took the worst of it with their lighter ships, but none were sunk. The San Juan was turned into a slow-moving battered hulk, forced to veer out of formation towards the IJN. As the Division Commander switched command to the DD USS Bagley, confusion during maneuvers resulted in the DD USS Patterson colliding with the San Juan, causing serious damage to both ships! The Hobart was significantly damaged by IJN gunfire also. The IJN held back on their torpedoes hoping to use them against any USN cruisers that might appear.

The IJN took very little damage overall but some lucky hits from the San Juan resulted in heavy damage to the Engineering section of the Furutaka and she stopped dead in the water, causing some evasive action by the following ships as they continued to speed along the Guadalcanal coastline at 30kn, passing Tassafaronga before veering North a bit and following the coastline.

At this point, the Allied squadron attempted to remain in the action as the IJN ducked into a convenient rain squall, causing them to lose contact. When they finally re-acquired the lead IJN Divisions, they were threatening the Lunga Point Anchorage! However, the narrowing of the maneuver space made the IJN movements easier to predict. A first torpedo attack by the battered and determined screening force fired 32 torpedoes at a medium range. Unfortunately, the USN spread was ineffective due to defective firing mechanisms and poor aim.

At this point the Allied CA force received contact messages from the screening force via TBS. Their random placement on their patrol route wasn't too far away, fortunately, and they increased speed and turned towards the Lunga Pt. anchorage.

Knowing that help was on the way, the Allied screening force turned hard to starboard to the opposite course of the IJN squadron. The lead Division of three remaining US DDs (their leader, the San Juan, was miles behind struggling to keep moving at 5kn) led by the doughty Bagley fired their remaining torpedoes. This time, they managed to aim true and also get the glancing blow needed to set off the faulty magneto firing mechanisms. Two hit the CL Yubari causing her to founder.

Unfortunately, the Kaigun were also masters of night torpedo work. A limited torpedo salvo caught and sank the USS Bagley and three struck the HMAS Hobart, which promptly broke apart and sank (taking ten hull hits with only four remaining can do that to you…). The five remaining US DDs vowed revenge and in the gunnery phase got it! They inflicted significant damage to the CA Kinugasa which lost speed and main gun turrets.

As the IJN closed and began processing firing solutions for the ships at anchor, precise gunnery from the Chokai cleared the nightwatch from the bridge, crushed a bulkhead and started a fires in the closest supply vessel. General Quarters sounded throughout the anchorage as stunned merchant marine and USN sailors rolled out of their bunks to take stations while the SeeBees frantically ceased their night unloading and attempted to secure their cargo.

Luck was still with the Nipponese as the HMAS Australia, anchored near the supply vessels, went to general quarters but the bleary bridge crew were unable to Acquire any IJN vessels (and remained unable...and at anchor...for the battle). The IJN closed with the supply vessels but felt obliged to split fire between the vulnerable supply ships and harassing screening force. While gunnery didn't achieve much at this point, the IJN suffered disastrous collisions in the third Division as the CL Tenryu and DD Yunagi struck the sinking shattered wreck of their leader, the CL Yubari. The USN wasn't without similar mishap as the DD Patterson collided with the shattered Bagley, taking serious damage to the hull.

At this point, the Allied Cruisers entered the battle. Desperate attempts to sort out the scene failed, and the five Cruisers lead by the USS Vincennes fired upon the nearby HMAS Australia when an IJN flare lit her up. Fortunately for Allied relations, the startled gunners fired ineffectively at the suddenly illuminated target. Soon, they realized their error as the Australia illuminated her signals and they settled down a bit to Acquire the lead IJN Squadron, now with two CA, the Chokai and the Kako.

At this point, the IJN fired their deadly torpedoes into the anchorage. The motionless ships were sitting ducks and two were struck and began to founder with flaming decks and shattered bulkheads – the war was over for the gallant pair. The IJN then turned hard to starboard to parallel the course of the fast-moving Allied CA squadron.

At this point we began to make some obvious calculations on the most likely end. While we could’ve played it out to the bitter finale, the separation of the Divisions, the limitations of the TBS and the failing of morale checks were putting some ships on the run. A lack of hull boxes and main guns was a problem for others…

It was clear that the lead IJN Division would lose it's two remaining ships while the third escaped (having repaired its engines after several turns dead in the water, and being left far behind near Tassafaronga). The second Division of two CA had one that was nearly sunk while the other was in good shape and unDetected / unAcquired by any USN Division. We decided that she'd quietly sneak away.

I insisted that the IJN resolve their final potential shooting and an overly conscientious Portnersan had to be coaxed into it. The Chokai in its last moments destroyed the turrets on the Vincennes and began two fires that they just couldn't put out - clearly they set off the aviation fuel for the seaplanes! After several turns of failed damage control (only needed <6 on d12! to put out each fire) the Vincennes was abandoned and sank.

Final tally Allies: the Allies lost CA Vincennes (5), CL Hobart (4), DDs Bagley and Ralph Talbot (4 total) sunk, and three supply ships sunk (no points), with the San Juan (4x.5=2) crippled and sent back to the States for repairs, a total of 15 VPs for the IJN. Three more USN DDs were Disabled, the Patterson, Jarvis and Helm, (no points). Admiral Moore regretted his generosity in allowing final shots from the doomed IJN CAs, but he’s British-trained and, “There _must_ be standard of conduct for naval warfare lest barbarity rule the seas!”

Final tally IJN: The IJN lost three CA (Chokai (7), Kako (5), and Kinugasa (5)), two CL (Tenryu and Yubari (6 total)) and one DD (Yunagi (1.5)), with the two remaining CA Disabled or Crippled. Total of at least 24.5 for the Allies

Final Victory Calculation: IJN = 15 + three transports sunk. Allies = 24.5 (?). Points result is “Allied Tactical Victory”, but the IJN sank <5 Allied transports so the book calls it an “Allied Major Victory”! It didn’t feel that way, but there it is. I guess it all depends on who writes the scenario.

Historically everything changed! The USN took less combat damage but lost precious supply vessels, while the IJN historically took no damage but abandoned the attempt at the anchorage. Clearly Adm. Kenaka Portnersan is a greater avatar of the samurai spirit than his historical counterparts!

Adm. Rumrunner Moore faired better with his fleet than his historical counterpart, but the embarrassing loss of three supply ships sunk and the Vincennes to a crippled IJN cruiser still gave him some tough explaining before ComSoPac! On the other hand, he survived and was not relieved of command as so many of the other USN officers were, so he had a quiet toast to Poseidon in his cabin that evening…

Hindsight is 20-20
Adm. Moore's self-eval. The USN had a good setup that I wouldn't change much, if at all. My ships did reasonably well to Detect IJN ships on radar, but they struggled to Acquire them as targets on several occasions and had one Fratricide event on the HMAS Australia, fortunately rolling "misses" on several dice. The substantial penalty of rolling 2xd12 and adding them, PLUS an auto-fail at 12+ total (so even a normally automatic Acquisition would be a miss 50% of the time) made their gunnery less than optimal and made torpedoes very difficult to fire until they FINALLY acquired the IJN after about 8 turns (ugh!).

Given this, the Allies did pretty well under the circumstances. However, there were two occasions of poor maneuvering that had my own ships screening friendly fire, and one where I rolled a torpedo under the USS Bagley (which was presently sinking from IJN Torpedoes, but still…). Also, the screening force might have used a different approach vector to hit the tail of the IJN formation and harass them from the rear with their deadly CL (the San Juan with 16 light 5" guns and the Hobart with 8 heavier 6" guns). Instead, they hit the head of the column and the two CL were trashed and are out of the campaign without inflicting significant damage in exchange.

And IJN critique. It seems to me that the IJN picked the most difficult approach given my setup. The Southeast passage around Savo is longer, and my forces had the same chances to engage there as a Northeast approach. Personally, I would've picked the East or Northeast Savo passage (the first hoping for surprise and the second as the shorter of the two obvious choices). The IJN chose not to close and engage the screening force which helped them to get to the anchorage and sink three supply ships, earning them some hard-won credit on the scale of control for Henderson Airfield. Still, a direct shot from Savo Island to the Lunga Point anchorage was a bit shorter, and would've brought them closer to the USN screening force which would undoubtedly have resulted in some serious losses there from the effective IJN gunnery. Also, I would've dumped some torpedoes into the two CL of the screening force. They can take a ship from 0-to-sunk in 1-2 hits, which seems worth it.

Overall, a lot of work to figure out a new set of rules in no less than two complete 21-ship refights. However, I think we know the rules now and I've made some cheat sheets for the common events that cross-reference a variety of useful details. We're excited to see how this different result will shape the campaign for Guadalcanal - will it change history? Or will the IJN suffer the long slow death by strangulation from the airpower at Henderson Field!?
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#15284 In the Light of Day

Posted by W. Clark on 20 May 2021 - 02:59 AM

Java Sea AAR

VAdm Helfrich (RNN) was on the bridge of his Mackensen class battle cruiser HrMs De Seven Provincien heading due north at 20 knots. The other two ships of the class, HrMs Amsterdam and HrMs Rotterdam were in line astern of his flagship. RAdm Staveren’s (RNN) cruiser squadron was in column following the battle squadron with the cruisers; HrMs De Ruyter (flag), HrMs Java, HrMs Sumatra and HrMs Tromp. RAdm Doorman in HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (DesFlot Leader) was following the cruisers with his third DesDiv. of four Callenburgh class destroyers; HrMs Isaac Sweers (leader), HrMs Gerard Callenburgh, HrMs Tjerk Hiddes and HrMs Phillips van Almonde. The first and second DesDivs. of the DesFlot in columns to his starboard and port respectively.

 

The Dutch had seen during WWI how the Japanese snatched up all the German colonies they could. The Government decided to pay more heed to its Admirals’ warnings about Japanese intentions towards the Dutch East Indies colonies. The Dutch realized they could never match the Japanese ship for ship and looked for some way to slow the Japanese down until the Royal Navy and the Americans could intervene. They decided they needed capital ships that were stronger than the Kongo class and faster than the Japanese battleships. They approached Germany in late 1919 about the three Mackensen class battle cruisers that had been launched but not completed. Germany was only too happy to sell the Mackensen’s rather than scrap them at their own expense. But the Dutch had to get past the French. They consulted with the Americans and the British and got them to agree to the deal provided the Germans did not arm the ships. The ships were towed to Britain and completed there with British 13.5” guns. They were reboilered and converted to oil firing. But the Dutch did more. They ponied up the money to refit the Java class pending replacement and those ships were in much better condition than they were historically. The Dutch also accelerated their ship building with both the Tromp class Flotilla Leaders and Callenburgh class destroyers being completed before May 1940 (barely). The Endratch class cruisers (the Java class’s replacements) were also much farther along. They had been launched and were towed to Britain in May 1940, but they were still not complete.

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse meant that the Dutch had the only capital ships in the newly formed ABDA. VAdm Helfrich was thus able to resist integrating the Dutch Fleet into ABDA commands not under Dutch officers. He had been holding his fleet south of Java during the day to avoid Japanese LBA while he bided his time waiting for a chance to strike at the Japanese.

 

But his moment had never come. The Japanese moved too fast and now it was late February and a Japanese invasion convoy aimed at Surabaya was steaming south through the Makassar Strait. VAdm Helfrich took his fleet through the Sunda Strait to intercept. The Dutch had maneuvered towards Surabaya and then turned north. They had beaten off attacks by LBA several times, so Helfrich knew his approach was no surprise.

The visibility was about 20,000 yards with no squalls or sea haze. The wind was Force 2 from the north. But the afternoon was passing swiftly. At 1600 hours the lookout spotted ships ahead and Helfrich ordered the spotter a/c launched. A column of capital ships was dead ahead heading south with destroyers to either flank and other ships behind. Helfrich ordered a 90 degree turn to starboard to bring his BCs broadsides to bear and 30 knots.

 

A moment later came flashes on the horizon; HrMs De Seven Provincien and HrMs Amsterdam answered (HrMs Rotterdam had not yet turned). Two four shell salvos landed near Provincien and Amsterdam respectively and one shell struck Provincien on her belt causing minor damage that did not affect her speed.

 

VAdm Helfrich could see that the two leading Japanese battleships (He believed they were Kongo class) had turned sharply to port (his POV) and had unmasked their broadsides. He also saw that they had at least one DesDiv to either flank and the destroyers had moved closer to the Dutch then their battleships were. The Japanese destroyers were making funnel smoke and it appeared that they would cover the Japanese battleships within minutes.

 

It appeared to VAdm Helfrich that the Japanese would try and close the range behind cover of smoke. VAdm Helrich did not want a close fight. He wanted to fight the fight with his BCs at ranges over 15,000 yards. He needed to shelter his cruisers as they were no match for the Japanese heavy cruisers, he was sure were present. It was obvious the Japanese had no intention of offering him the fight he wanted. But two could play the smoke game.

 

VAdm Helfrich ordered his BCs to turn away to stay outside 15,000 yards. He would have RAdm Doorman’s DesFlot lay smoke perpendicular to the Japanese line of advance. He would have the entire DesFlot within 4,500 yards of the smoke and RAdm Staveren’s cruiser squadron within 9,000 yards of the smoke screen. VAdm Helfrich’s battle squadron would try to get over 15,000 yards from the smoke screen.

 

The concept was that any Japanese ship poking its nose through the smoke screen would be smothered in shell fire and torpedoes. Meanwhile the Dutch BCs would be in position to intervene if the Japanese battleships or their heavy cruisers came through or around the smoke screen.

 

VAdm Helfrich realized that both he and the Japanese Admiral had the same problem. What they wanted to strike was on the far side of each force. Neither had the speed advantage needed to get around the other. The first side to penetrate the other’s smoke screen would probably be severely punished for their aggression. But VAdm Helfrich had an additional problem; time was not on his side and night fall was less than four hours away.

 

The Japanese made no attempt to breach his smoke screen but had turned due west. Every time the Dutch tried to get in range with their BCs the Japanese covered themselves in smoke. Then the Japanese reversed course to due east using the same tactics. It was clear they intended to wait on nightfall. If the Japanese veered towards the Dutch behind their smoke the Dutch recreated their smoke screen and the Japanese backed off. As night fell, the Dutch turned back 135 degrees to the NNW to try and silhouette the Japanese against the setting sun. But the Japanese just turned south behind their smoke. That forced the Dutch to turn south also.

 

By this point both sides spotter a/c had a good look at what their parent ships were up against. The Dutch pilots had reported four Kongo class battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and at least sixteen destroyers. That the Japanese out numbered them was no surprise to Helfrich.

 

It was now full dark. The moon state was full. VAdm Helfrich estimated that his ships could see about 16,000 yards. That would have to do. He ordered the Fleet to turn 45 degrees to port to close the Japanese at an angle.

 

 

To be continued

 


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#15237 Badung Strait

Posted by W. Clark on 11 May 2021 - 04:35 AM

Badung Strait-19 February 1942

           

We had our first face to face game in over a year. There were only three of us so, we wanted a small scenario. We are also involved in playing the “Defending the Malay Barrier” campaign so we wanted a scenario related to the campaign. We turned to the Dutch Supplement and selected Badung Strait.

 

Time: 2200 hours       Moon: Full      Wind: Force 2 from the East.             Squalls: None

Max Visibility: 20,000 yards 

 

It was a moon lit night and Rear Admiral Randy Miles (aka Doorman) was on the bridge of his flagship HrMs De Ruyter. HrMs Java trailed him astern and a mixed Dutch and American destroyer division comprised of HrMs Piet Hein, USS John D. Ford and USS Pope followed Java.

A second Allied group consisting of HrMs Tromp and the American destroyers, USS John D. Edwards, USS Stewart, USS Pillsbury and USS Parrott was about 2 to 3 hours behind.

 

The Japanese had landed a battalion of their 48th Infantry Division on Bali and Allied LBA had bombed the landing force and caused some damage. Doorman’s mission was to finish what the Airedales had started and sink any Japanese shipping in the Strait.

 

The ABDA Force was heading NE and steaming at 25 knots with the cruiser division in line ahead with their destroyer division behind them in a column. They had been heading NE for about 30 minutes in the Strait when lookouts on De Ruyter (could see 6, 000 yards) and Piet Hein (could see 8,000 yards) both acquired what turned out to be two destroyers on their port quarter. Doorman called for full speed and a change of course to port to close when 2 torpedoes struck USS Pope and 3 more struck USS John D. Ford sinking both destroyers within 3 minutes.

 

De Ruyter struck back and hit the lead destroyer (Oshio) setting her afire. Return fire from Oshio bounced ineffectively off DeRuyter. Java could not see anything but Piet Hein opened on the second Japanese destroyer (Arashio). Java now able to see the burning Oshio joined De Ruyter in pummeling her with 5.9”. Oshio’s return fire was smothered under the deluge 5.9” and her speed dropped while she continued to burn. Oshio was also illuminated by many smaller fires from the cruiser fire.

 

Piet Hein traded shots with Arashio and suffered for it. First was a hit in her engineering (which she repaired immediately) and then a bulkhead which took 6 minutes to repair. Arashio was also suffering when Java joined in. Arashio now on fire with her guns being ruthlessly silenced slowly lost speed. Java also suffered a bulkhead hit.

 

Piet Hein finally saw what the Allies were there for; the Sagami Maru chugging along at 10 knots. Piet Hein having lost her forward torpedo mount continued to close the range smothering the Sagami Maru’s lone 3” and damaging a bulkhead. Sagami Maru had gone dead in the water and the two Japanese destroyers were not far from it but refused to give up the fight.

 

Captain Robert Bishopsan had fought gallantly, making moral twice but Asashio and Michishio (while approaching) were too far away to intervene in time to save the valiant captain or his crews.

 

We called it an Allied victory and ended it there.

 


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#15231 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 07 May 2021 - 02:31 PM

January 17, 1916

 

This fourth and final part of the three-day Möwe saga is a recast of the events of January 17, 1916, centering on the notion of HMS Essex and her captain acting upon the radio messages of SS Clan MacTavish, received on the evening of January 16, 1916. These garbled messages were, in fact, discarded/ignored by the wireless operators, with HMS Essex continuing her patrol some 150 miles south of the freighter’s last reported position. It was a long-shot opportunity to have ended Möwe’s career early on, tragically cast aside. Apologies given in advance for its long-winded nature.

 

 

Alone in HMS Essex’s cramped radio room, a young telegraph rating sat hunched at his station, head down, his headset held tightly over his ears. There it was again, he thought, a faint message, nearly obscured by crackling interference, a call for assistance, under attack, Clan MacTavish, along with a position. It repeated nearly a dozen times before it faded into an indiscernible stream, but he was able to jot down most, if not all of it. Looking at his watch, he noted the time and date in the wireless log as 1848, 16 January 1916.

 

He’d no sooner written into the log then the steel door behind him swung open, the CPO sticking his head in to check on him. Turning, the operator said nothing, just handed him the slip of paper.

 

“Are you sure?” his chief asked. He always harbored some doubts about these newly-minted wireless operators.

 

“It repeated a number of times; I wrote down what I could, but then I lost it.”

 

“Give it another twenty minutes. See if you can raise it again. I’ll be back ‘round in a bit.”

 

A half hour slipped by and the operator heard nothing, just a few faint wisps of inconsequential traffic. When the chief returned, the operator had nothing new to report. The surly CPO, mumbling something about having had his doubts, told the radioman he would need to stay on past the end of his watch as the lead telegraphist had taken ill and was laid up in sick bay.

 

He’d nearly given up on it when, at 2048, a new message from Clan MacTavish was heard, quite clear, reporting that the freighter had been attacked by an unidentified ship which they’d managed to elude. The message provided a revised time, position, and an approximate heading. The operator alerted the watch officer, who had the message taken to the bridge. At 2100, Essex’s captain, Hugh D. R. Watson, was sent for and told of the message. Looking at the charts, they determined that Essex could be on Clan MacTavish’s approximate position within eight or nine hours. At 2124, Watson messaged Cape Verde station, who ordered Essex off her patrol and sent north.

 

__________

 

At 2018, Dohna-Schlodien ordered Möwe around to resume the pursuit of Clan MacTavish, but after nearly two hours searching in the darkness, no trace of the big freighter was found. The German made the presumption that MacTavish’s captain would quickly resume his original due-north course and set Möwe’s search in that direction; Oliver, in fact, had turned onto an ENE heading, moving nearly 180 degrees opposite the last glimpse he’d had of his adversary. Shortly before 2100, Oliver took one hell of a chance and ordered a short message sent advising of their encounter, the time, and an approximate position. Receiving no response and presuming no assistance was coming, he resolved to put as much water as possible between him and the German cruiser before dawn.

 

Dohna Schlodien
Nikolaus Burggraf und Graf zu Dohna-Schlodien.

 

Dohna-Schlodien had decisions of his own to make, none of them particularly good. First, he radioed Berg on Appam, advising him that Möwe would not rendezvous with the liner again, instead ordering him to take the ship west to a neutral American port. He directed Berg to do this in a leisurely fashion, both to delay the release of the British prisoners she was carrying, as well as optimizing Möwe’s chances to disappear.

 

He next had to decide whether to remain in the area south of Funchal, move to another location somewhere along the West African coast, or simply push off for the hunting grounds of South America and a rendezvous with Corbridge for recoaling. While they had not detected any radio traffic overnight indicating the gig was up, he had to presume that the freighter, if able, would do so by morning. As the hours slipped by and no “alarm” traffic was overheard, Dohna-Schlodien made the decision to remain for a few days before heading west.

 

Hugh D. R. Watson had taken command of Essex on New Year’s Day, 1915. During the years leading up to the war, she’d had a reputation as a rather undisciplined ship, performing subpar on maneuvers while wreaking havoc in a number of ports of call. Watson, together with Hugh Tweedie, her previous commander, had gone a long ways toward getting the troublemakers and malcontents sorted. By January, 1916, she was performing as well as any of the cruisers assigned to foreign stations.

 

HMS Essex C2
Möwe's pursuer, HMS Essex, a Monmouth-class armored cruiser.

 

The Monmouth-class armored cruisers, of which Essex was one of ten, had been purpose-built for defending the sea lanes against marauding enemy cruisers and armed merchantmen. They were relatively lightly armed (14 six-inch in two twin turrets and six casemates) and armored (just 2-4 inches along the belt) as compared to the preceding Drake-class, but they had good speed, which was critical for the task at hand. Besides the lighter main armament, there were a number of design issues, the most glaring being eight of the six-inch were configured in two-tiered casemates, the lower of which were nearly awash in all but the calmest of conditions and lowest speeds. An anomaly in White’s string of cruiser designs, faults aside, they were lovely ships.

 

While Essex charged north at 18 knots, Watson was left to plan his search. With precious little information from MacTavish to build on, he started with the approximate position of her encounter which she’d radioed some eight hours earlier. Presuming the German was, at worst, a light cruiser, operating at a speed of 20 knots or less, he was left with a potential area of some 80,000 square nautical miles to deal with. That was, however, only if the raider had bolted in a straight line, which he thought unlikely. If the German had spent any significant time trying to track the freighter, the distance from the point of contact was probably far less, which would reduce the search area considerably, and a presumption that the German would stay close to the shipping lanes reduced it further. Drawing a circle around an area of some 6000 square nautical miles south and west of Madeira, he would focus his search there.

 

Sir_Hugh_Watson_in_1928.jpg

A postwar photo of Sir Hugh D. R. Watson from 1928.

 

Some ninety minutes before sunrise, a lookout reported a smudge of smoke on the horizon off Essex’s starboard bow. Sending the men to action stations, Watson had the cruiser move to investigate. What they discovered was nothing more than a 500-ton Portuguese trawler, belching a plume of oily smoke while dragging nets from its extended booms. Satisfied that this was no German raider, Watson pressed on at 15 knots, still more than two hours south of his targeted search area.

 

At 0740, another ship was encountered, this the Norwegian-flagged refrigerated motor vessel Sardinia, bound for Luanda with a cargo of fish, machine oil and parts. After a cursory inspection consuming the better part of forty minutes, both ships were back on their way, with Sardinia quickly disappearing over the southern horizon.

 

Nine hours after having dispatched Appam for her run west, Dohna-Schlodien was having second thoughts. The cargo liner might have proved useful as a decoy, screening Möwe in the event of a confrontation with a well-armed adversary. He made no effort to recall her, but it had him thinking. His failed overnight search for the freighter had taken him further north and east than he wanted. Presuming that any threat would likely come from the direction of Madeira, he ordered Möwe’s speed reduced to eight knots and a turn to the south-southwest. This would take them slowly across the established shipping lanes, as well as a line some forty miles west where traffic was reportedly moving in an attempt to avoid submarines that might be operating in the area. Once beyond that, sensing the risk of hanging around was too great, they’d head west for the Brazilian coast.

 

At 0920, Essex reached Clan MacTavish’s reported position at the time of her encounter with the German raider. As expected, there was nothing to be seen, the sea empty in all directions. MacTavish’s radio-location shortly before 2100 was nearly fifteen miles north-northeast, so Watson ordered Essex off on a line in that direction. He planned to continue on that heading for two or three hours, then begin a wide turn that would take the cruiser to the northwest.

 

By early afternoon, air temps had risen to a seasonal 61 degrees while sea conditions remained “gentle” (d12 roll of 3). At 1348, a faint wisp of smoke was reported off Essex’s port bow, some eight to twelve miles off. Checking the charts and their current position, Watson determined they were just outside the western edge of the standard north-south shipping lane, placing the ship fifteen to twenty nautical miles outside of where he’d expect one to be. Deciding to investigate, he ordered the helmsman to make a ten degree turn to port and speed increased back to 18 knots.

 

After nearly an hour of steaming, Essex had made little headway in reaching and identifying the vessel, although the smoke was a bit darker and better-defined. Watson realized two things: (1) Essex was slowly reeling in its quarry, and (2) the ship was travelling nearly perpendicular to the “normal” traffic lanes, highly suspicious behavior in Watson’s mind. He ordered speed increased to 20 knots.

 

Up ahead, Dohna-Schlodien had run through a similar analytical process, although his being laced with considerable caution. A topside lookout had spotted smoke off Möwe’s port quarter at 1406, and while Dohna-Schlodien would have dearly loved to turn back and harvest another merchantman, he did not, instead observing its position over time with the intention of determining its course. If it was observed to be moving north-south along the sea lane, then he would pursue it. It did not; in fact, after nearly an hour the ship’s position astern of Möwe had barely moved, indicating the ship was travelling on a similar heading, possibly in pursuit. Dohna-Schlodien decided it would be prudent to try and put as much water between them as possible. At 1436, he ordered a slight turn to port which, after a few minutes, the ship astern mimicked. This confirmed his suspicion that Möwe was being pursued, and he ordered his ship ahead at flank speed (14 knots).

 

__________

 

The inexorable march to some sort of endgame had begun, and Dohna-Schlodien was up against it. With more than three hours until sunset, he knew there was little chance of escaping into darkness, and the cloudless blue skies overhead gave little hope of a sudden squall or fog-bank to provide sanctuary. Short of a miracle, he knew he would have to face down his pursuer or strike his colors.

 

At 1512, Watson received word from the watch officer overhead that the ship had come into view, revealing itself to be a two-masted, single-funnel steamer, flag unknown. Still nearly twelve miles off, Watson ordered a signal sent, identifying himself as the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Essex and requesting the steamer’s identity. Receiving no response, he ordered the query sent again, to which a delayed response was returned that the ship is the Harrison Line’s Benefactor out of Liverpool. Watson finds that curious and decides he wants a closer look. At Essex’s current speed, she is closing on the merchantman at a rate of one mile every ten minutes.

 

SS Benefactor
SS Benefactor of the Harrison Line.

 

Peering aft through his battered Zeiss binoculars, Dohna-Schlodien could clearly see the outline of the three-funnel cruiser bearing down on Möwe. He was playing it coy, the British Red Ensign still fluttering above his ship, but he wondered how long the charade could last. To bring his 5.9-inch to bear, he would need to turn out from his present course to present his broadside, and his gun crews, which had proved themselves largely ineffective against a hostile ship less than 24 hours ago, would require a range of 4000-6000 yards for any chance, a torpedo half that. He didn’t like the odds, but to simply give up without a shot was unacceptable.

 

By 1542, the range was down to nine miles, still nearly 16000 yards. Watson ordered a new signal sent by lamp, demanding the ship heave to. There was no response, nor any indication that she intended to stop. Perhaps at the outer limits of lamp range, it was possible the signal was missed or misunderstood, but Watson had his doubts. At 1612, having closed to within six miles, he ordered the signal sent again, and again received no reply, although the ship was now observed to slow somewhat.

 

Dohna-Schlodien realized Möwe was rapidly approaching her Götterdämmerung moment. She couldn’t run and she couldn’t hide, but perhaps she could act in an erratic manner, thereby confusing her pursuer. With the range down to 8800 yards, he ordered a pair of distress flares launched, hoping this might give Essex pause. He then ordered Möwe’s speed to be gradually reduced to ten knots. Presuming the cruiser would continue her rapid approach, he hoped to get the range down to three miles or less, whereupon he’d turn across the Englander’s bow and open fire.

 

Watson and the others on Essex’s bridge watched in wonder as the pair of flares arced into the afternoon sky. What sort of tomfoolery was this, Watson wondered. Whatever it was, he’d had about enough of it. By 1642, the range was just a shade more than two miles, with Essex overtaking the freighter by a mile every six minutes. Sensing that his ability to maneuver was tightening as the distance closed, he ordered the cruiser’s speed reduced to 15 knots with an 18-degree turn to port. He then turned to his XO, “Signal them again, full stop, or we open fire.”

 

Watson’s “final” signal proved too late as an increasingly edgy Dohna-Schlodien, just seconds before, ordered Möwe into action. The Red Duster flying over her stern was quickly hauled down, replaced by the German naval ensign, with the ship lurching into a sharp turn to starboard, her speed returned to flank. The partitions are dropped to reveal her 5.9-inch, the disguised 4.1-inch on her stern is cleared and swung around for action, and the torpedo crews rotate their mounts outboard. He had, however, made his first mistake, choosing a turn to starboard under the presumption the cruiser would continue its rapid direct approach. Watson had not, instead choosing to turn to port, outside the freighter’s line, which now presented him a stern-on shot.

 

If Watson harbored any doubts of the German’s intentions, those were quickly dispelled. At 1648, Möwe’s stern mount 4.1-inch fires at a range of 3200 yards, scoring a non-penetrating hit on the face of Essex’s A-turret, sending splinters in all directions but causing only superficial damage and no casualties.

 

Möwe’s turn brings her starboard 5.9-inch to bear, commencing their fire at 1654. Dohna-Schlodien curses as a pair of tall columns of water erupt 50 yards off Essex’s stern. He knows every shot must count if they are to survive this fight. Watson, standing along the rail on the flying bridge, orders his main battery to commence firing, with nine 6-inch firing nearly in unison. With the range at 3000 yards (just 1.7 miles), all miss.

 

HMS Essex C
SMS Möwe's first 5.9-inch volley lands astern of HMS Essex.

 

At 1700, Dohna-Schlodien makes a second blunder. Anticipating the cruiser to turn in on his ship attempting to further close the range, he orders Möwe to turn sharply to port, reversing back to something close to her original course. In so doing, her 5.9-inch again lose their fire angle. The 4.1-inch fires but misses. Essex unleashes another broadside, the range having widened to 3600 yards. While they score no direct hits, they are dreadfully close.

 

01171916 B
SMS Möwe bracketed by a 6-inch volley from Essex.

 

Möwe continues her turn back to port, now bringing her onto a line roughly parallel to Essex. With her 5.9-inch back on line, she fires a broadside, holing the cruiser at the waterline aft of Z-turret on her starboard side. At 4100, yards, however, Möwe has slipped outside the range of her torpedoes. Seconds later she is rocked by three hits from Essex, crushing two bulkheads below deck and starting a fire in her aft cargo hold (converted for coal storage). As seawater pours into the ship and smoke billows from her aft hold, Möwe’s speed drops to eight knots.

 

Within minutes, Möwe has gotten the bulkhead damage and related flooding contained, but the fire in her aft hold continues to burn (causing additional flooding). At 1712, the range widening, both ships fire and miss.

 

01171916 A
SMS Möwe on fire.

 

By 1718, Dohna-Schlodien’s XO reports the fire is under control, but the German’s speed has now fallen to just 5 knots. With scarcely enough momentum to maneuver, Möwe sends another volley in Essex’s direction, missing from 4500 yards; Essex returns fire, scoring a single hit which stoves in her forward port-side 5.9-inch position and making hash of the gun crew.

 

Minutes go by and the range continues to widen, now nearly 4800 yards. Looking at his watch, Watson realizes they’ve been at this for scarcely a half-hour. A-turret thunders and he looks up to see a 6-inch round plow into the German aft. As smoke again begins to pour out of her cargo hold, her remaining port-side 5.9-inch fires, the shell passing safely up and over the British cruiser’s funnels.

 

While Möwe quickly gets her fires back under control, the entire back half of the ship is now little more than a blackened hulk. With her pumps struggling to contain the flooding, her speed down to just five knots, nearly a third of her crew dead or wounded, and a quarter of her main armament out of action, her career comes to a fictional end. At 1730, Dohna-Schlodien orders the colors struck, his crew and prisoners into the boats. Standing along the rail, he watches as the men pull away, then heads below to open the seacocks.


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#15204 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 12 April 2021 - 11:50 AM

The real story of Clan MacTavish, of course, ended rather badly, with most accounts raising more questions than they answer. Oliver, the conservative and cautious Scot, seemed to take few precautions and allowed Dohna-Schlodien to lull him into a state of near complacency. It cost him his ship and two dozen dead and wounded. The notion that historical hindsight is always 20-20 is a valid one, yet I find myself continuing to wonder how these ships’ masters allowed themselves to be taken in and down so easily.

 

One might start the rationalization process by acknowledging that Möwe was the first of her breed, an armed auxiliary cruiser disguised as a tramp steamer, and only recently entering service. When she encountered MacTavish, it had only been five days since she’d claimed her first victims, likely insufficient time for the alarm to have been raised of a piratical German raider operating in the West African shipping lanes.

 

Still, there were, and are, rules of navigation to be abided, and when a ship, clearly on a course other than your own, alters course in order to run parallel, that would seem indicative of some “peculiar” intent. Merchant ships have places to be, often with lucrative incentives for the captain to make schedule; they don’t typically sail haphazardly in a circuitous fashion. Yet, time and again, this is precisely what happened. In MacTavish’s case, Oliver, after exchanging requests for identification, ultimately allowed Möwe to close to within just 300 yards, whereupon she dropped her disguise and demanded his full stop. Only then did the Scotsman realize the game was indeed afoot and decide to attempt an ill-fated run for it.

 

It’s easy, 105 years later, to question someone’s ability to assess risk, but it seems in weighing the odds between making schedule or losing one’s ship, the decision for the former outweighed the latter. That, at least, is my take on it.

 

The other question that comes up is just how effective is the German 5.9-inch at the outer bands of its range. At 6000 yards, firing over open sights, the 5.9-inch has a one-in-four chance of scoring a hit. In my replay, Möwe opened on Clan MacTavish at around four miles (a bit beyond 7000 yards, a one-in-six probability), scoring no hits, and this continued even as the range closed. I freely admit to being one of the poorest die-rollers of all time, but it soon became apparent that the weight of two 5.9-inch tubes (one d12 roll per salvo) at a reasonable distance was a stretch for favorable results. That said, just one or two hits were likely sufficient to cripple the target.

 

So this exercise has answered little. My random-behavioral tables, supplemented with a few die-rolls to address minor issues along the way, seemed to work, fortunately not yielding anything too crazy (well maybe a decision to charge/ram was outside the norm). It will be interesting to try them with a few more ships on the table. Before that, however, there’s one final bit of this Möwe saga to explore.

 

And BTW, there’s a pair of relatively new d12 dice laying somewhere out in my backyard. You’re welcome to come retrieve them, but in my experience, they’re not worth it.  

 


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#15200 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 10 April 2021 - 08:53 AM

January 16, 1916

 

Clan Line Association Steamers was organized in Glasgow in the late 1800s by a consortium of Scottish investors, intended for service on the routes between Britain, South Africa, and India. Their timing was fortuitous, as Britain saw a boom in trade during the final decades of the nineteenth century, which led to the Clan Line’s rapid expansion. The company developed not only a reputation for expedient service, but also taking extraordinarily good care of cargoes, especially those which required special handling. One such cargo was tea, which had to be carefully segregated from other hold contents to avoid contamination. The Clan Line would dominate the highly-profitable tea trade for decades, its near monopolistic grip not broken until the years immediately following the Second World War.

 

During the first decade of the new century, trade fell into a bit of decline, while the competition for cargo grew. Shippers called upon the Clan Line to add Australia and New Zealand to its routes. At first the cargoes carried were largely dry goods such as wool, flax, and other nonperishables, but eventually a market for mutton, beef, and dairy began to develop, requiring the use of refrigerated ships. Charles Cayzer, a founder and the managing partner of the line, was reluctant to branch out into refrigeration, but he was eventually convinced by younger managers in the company. It proved a good decision, as refrigerated cargo handling would become a key component of the line’s business, especially during the economically difficult interwar years.

 

The line operated more than 80 ships over the course of the First World War, 28 of which were lost (fully a third of the line’s fleet). That’s a pretty horrendous rate of loss, but generally indicative of not only what was happening on the sea lanes for the first three years of the war, but also the company’s continued dedication to its lucrative, increasingly risky routes. The company lost not only many ships, but hundreds of employees as well during the fight on the high seas (not to mention those that went into the army and became casualties on the Western Front).

 

A number of the Clan Line’s ships were taken by the German surface raiders, the first being Calcutta-bound Clan Matheson, a general cargo freighter sunk in the Bay of Bengal by the Emden on September 14, 1914. A month later, the company lost another Calcutta-bound freighter, Clan Grant, also sunk by Emden a bit further west. The next would come some 15 months later.

 

Clan MacTavish, a relatively recent addition to the line, was a 5816 GRT refrigerated cargo ship launched in 1912 from the Armstrong-Whitworth yards at Newcastle. Hers was a record of highly-profitable voyages between Britain and the ports of South Asia and the southwestern Pacific. On December 9, 1915, she found herself casting off at Wellington, New Zealand, bound for London with a cargo comprised of wool, mutton, leather, tinned meats and grain. She was captained by a tough Scotsman, William N. Oliver. Her voyage across the Indian Ocean was uneventful and, after a brief stop at Durban, South Africa, she set off for Dakar where she would coal and have a six-pounder quick-firing naval gun, likely a Hotchkiss, mounted on her stern. Many historians deride the Hotchkiss as a largely ineffective weapon, but it was intended as defense against light torpedo boats and submarines, not a heavily armed warship. With two Royal Navy gunners aboard to crew the six-pounder, she set off from Dakar on January 13, 1916.

 

Clan MacTavish
SS Clan MacTavish.

 

By mid-day on the 16th, Dohna-Schlodien had spent the better part of 24 hours retrieving various bits of cargo off the Appam (including some £30,000 of gold bullion), while transferring more than two hundred prisoners held on Möwe to the cargo liner. He planned to keep the steamer handy for a few days, then send it off to be interned in the U. S. or South America. In the meantime, Leutnant Hans Berg and the prize crew had taken a firm grip on Appam’s operations, assuring the ship’s complement and passengers that she would be scuttled if their cooperation was not forthcoming and maintained.

 

Game Prep

 

I did a bit of rework on the reaction/decision tables, as the play from the 15th felt entirely too scripted for my liking. I realize now that I’d skewed the tables toward outcomes I’d thought likely, rather than outcomes that were merely possible. After expanding the decision tree and the list of “events” that call for reactions, I think I have a better list of outcomes to balance against.

 

That said, a bit of tailoring was still required. The notional restraints on Harrison (Appam) are quite different from those on Oliver (Clan MacTavish), at least from the standpoint of Oliver not having to concern himself with the welfare of 140+ civilian passengers. He could be a bit more reckless in his decision-making, and I needed to reflect that here.

 

Assembling a ship’s log for Clan MacTavish was relatively straightforward. There are a number of sources providing GRT, speed, and other basic engineering attributes, all providing the same basic data. What was less definitive was her armament, or more precisely, where the six-pounder was mounted. Most sources simply refer to a “stern-mount” for the gun, but Bernard Edwards specified that the gun “was so mounted on the Clan MacTavish’s port quarter that it gave no cover to the starboard side.” No other source mentioned this, and Edwards provided no cite, so it’s difficult to corroborate. While I have no reason to doubt Edwards’ account, it seems illogical to me, so I went with a wide-ranging stern mount.

 

 

Ships Log Clan MacTavish
Proposed ship's log for SS Clan MacTavish.

 

Oliver’s ship is tracking north and, quite late in the afternoon, two ships (unbeknownst to him, Möwe and Appam) appear on his port bow, some eight or nine miles off, crossing ahead. We’ll make the presumption that Clan MacTavish, Möwe, and Appam are all proceeding at 10 knots. Weather is clear, seas are gentle. Oliver holds his course, presuming these ships pose no threat to Clan MacTavish while knowing his is the “stand on ship” by the rules of navigation. The two ships, approaching from the west, continue their seeming reckless approach.

 

After Action Report

 

Having sighted an approaching freighter on his starboard bow and wishing to investigate, Dohna-Schlodien orders Appam away to the northeast to stand off at some 20-30 miles. Noting the fading sunlight, a glance at his watch reveals it is 1724. The sun will set around 1830, which doesn’t leave much time to reach the freighter in daylight. Estimating the ship’s speed to be roughly the same as Möwe, he calculates they will pass quite close in fifty minutes, but only if both maintain their current speed and headings.

 

William Oliver suffers no fools, especially himself. He’s an eternal skeptic in the behavior of others, and the two ships he’s been observing off his port bow appear to be intent on crossing ahead at a distance too close for comfort. They don’t appear to be of any real threat to his ship, other than their obtuse navigation. Presuming these are two steamers bound for Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, he takes some comfort when the lead ship changes course to a northeastern heading, but notes that the second ship, lagging the first by nearly a mile, continues due east. At 1736, convinced there’s no accounting for such idiocy, he orders Clan MacTavish to turn thirty degrees to port onto a north-northwest heading that will allow her to pass well astern of the miscreant (a d12 roll of 5 on the reaction table)

 

As the distance between the ships rapidly decreases, Dohna-Schlodien gets a good look at the freighter. He can see that she’s quite a bit bigger than Möwe, perhaps some twenty percent in GRT, and British-flagged. Continuing on his current heading, he crosses some five-and-one-half miles ahead of her at 1754. Hoping not to alarm his quarry, he has Möwe slow to eight knots and start a gradual turn to the north-northeast.

 

Due south and just three-and-one-half miles dead astern of the tramp steamer, the ever-cautious master of Clan MacTavish eyes the ship with suspicion. Maintaining his course, he messages by lamp “What ship is that?”, then a minute later, “Do you require assistance?”. With neither query answered, Oliver makes the presumption that the ship is up to something and, at 1818, orders his gun manned, a turn to the northwest, all ahead flank (a d12 roll of 1 on the reaction table for “get the hell out of here”, a d12 roll of 10 for directional course change, and a d12 roll of 11 for speed change).

 

Clan MacTavish Pz
A generic large freighter plays SS Clan MacTavish (1/2400 Panzerschiffe).

 

Dohna-Schlodien watches the freighter heel slightly as she makes a turn further west and accelerates. With the range widened to slightly more than four miles, and once again having gotten himself dead ahead of the British ship, he realizes there’s no point in continuing the charade. He orders a “Stop at once” message sent, has the Red Duster run down, replaced by the German naval ensign. He tells the helmsman to start a turn to the northwest and orders all ahead full as the gun crews drop the canvas partitions.

 

Oliver ignores the German’s stop order, instead directing his radioman to send repeated distress messages. He tells the engineering officer to have his Lascar firemen shovel like their very lives depend upon it (which they likely do), and gives his RN gun crew permission to fire when ready. The two ships are now running near parallel courses northwest, slightly less than four miles apart. Both captains know that there’s maybe 20 minutes of rapidly failing light, then covering darkness.

 

At 1842, Möwe gives a warning shot across the bow with its stern-mounted 4.1-inch. Standing on the starboard side of the bridge, Oliver ignores the warning shot, grinning slightly when hears the 6-pounder bark in response. A small splash appears well short of the German.

 

With no indication the freighter intends to stop, Dohna-Schlodien opens with his 5.9-inch at 1848, missing just short of the freighter midship. He orders Möwe a further turn west-northwest, attempting to close the range, while Oliver maintains his course and every stitch of speed he could wring from MacTavish’s plant. The range grows to a bit less than 7600 yards.

 

Möwe’s 5.9-inch and stern guns continue firing, scoring no hits on the great lumbering freighter. At 1900, Oliver orders cease-fire so that the 6-pounder’s muzzle flash won’t betray their position in the deepening darkness. With all lights extinguished and course maintained, he orders a speed reduction to 10 knots, staunching the position-revealing plume of embers pouring out of her funnel at flank speed.

 

As the British freighter disappears into the darkness, Dohna-Schlodien also orders his guns to cease firing. With precious little moonlight, the last reported range was down to a bit less than 6200 yards. He reduces speed to 11 knots, similarly mitigating Möwe’s funnel glow and wake on the mirror-like surface.

 

At 1918, Oliver orders MacTavish slowed to just five knots, hopeful that his antagonist will continue at breakneck speed, overshoot his location and pass into the night. Within minutes, however, his luck briefly turns. A lookout on Möwe spots the dark mass of the freighter just 4800 yards off their port beam, and Dohna-Schlodien orders fire resumed.

 

Seeing the muzzle-flashes on his starboard bow, Oliver orders MacTavish’s speed back to flank and turns into the German raider. Head on, his silhouette is narrowed significantly, but that’s a secondary consideration. Worst case, he’ll ram the German, full speed, ending this now. Looking up at the ship’s clock, it’s 1942.

 

The range is drawing down to point-blank. The German 5.9-inch maintain their fire, but score no hits. They can clearly see the oncoming freighter now, scarcely a mile-and-a-half away, a great frothy bow wave boiling up in front of her. At 1948, Dohna-Schlodien flips on his searchlights, now realizing the Brit’s grim intent. He orders flank speed in an effort to escape. At 1950, Oliver abruptly orders MacTavish to turn inside Möwe’s stern, passing within just 1200 yards.

 

Once clear of the German, Oliver again orders speed reduced to 10 knots, the two ships now rapidly moving away from each other. As the range grows, Möwe’s 4.1-inch swings around and fires a final time, missing badly. Clan MacTavish, not a nick on her, slips back into the darkness.

 

(end of pt.3)


  • simanton and Brooks Witten like this


#15192 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 03 April 2021 - 08:58 AM

January 15, 1916

 

Early on the morning of January 15, Möwe stopped SS Ariadne off Madeira, a freighter bound for Nantes with a load of corn. After her crew was taken off, explosive charges were placed which, when detonated, failed to sink her. Defiantly remaining afloat, Dohna-Schlodien then ordered Ariadne sunk by gunfire, expending nearly a dozen 5.9-inch rounds. When this too failed, the freighter was sent to the bottom with the use of a torpedo.

 

SS Ariadne S
SS Ariadne torpedoed by Möwe on the morning of January 15, 1916 (from Dohna-Schlodien's 1916 book recounting Möwe's first voyage). 

 

Around mid-day a new smudge of smoke appeared on the horizon, eventually identified as the northbound British passenger steamer SS Appam. Owned and operated by the British & African Steam Navigation Company, she was travelling from the Senegalese port of Dakar to Plymouth, England, carrying various cargo along with 168 passengers. Among them were a number of British dignitaries, along with thirteen enemy civilian prisoners and seven German POWs. She was commanded by Captain Henry G. Harrison. None of this, of course, was immediately known to the wary Dohna-Schlodien.

 

Assembling ship’s logs for Möwe and Appam was a bit of a challenge, as information is fairly sparse and what’s out there is often contradictory between sources. One of the biggest problems is finding reliable data for gross registered tonnage (GRT) and the ships’ engineering configuration and capabilities. I have a number of hard-copy sources here frequently referred to, and those, together with on-line sources/accounts, lead to a seemingly reasonable consensus view.

 

Möwe, as best I can tell, had a GRT of roughly 5000 tons and a top speed of 13-14 knots. She packed four hidden 5.9-inch and a single disguised 4.1-inch, along with a host of smaller weapons. Sources vary as to whether she carried two or four single-mount torpedo tubes; I opted to go with four. Originally built as a refrigerated freighter, she maintained some of that capability which, Dohna-Schlodien wrote in his 1916 account of the voyage, was useful for provision storage on the long voyage. Her coal bunkers had been enlarged in her conversion, which significantly expanded her potential operating range.

 

Appam is described by most sources as a passenger steamer of approximately 7800 GRT. I had trouble finding much in the way of a description of her engineering configuration or operating speed; however, Emmon’s book on the Atlantic liners gave single-screw vessels of similar size and configuration a speed of 13-16 knots, which I was able to loosely corroborate using Dunn’s Merchant Ships of the World, 1910-1929. At the time Appam encountered Möwe, she was slightly more than 1000 nautical miles out of Dakar, travelled over four days, which would put her cruising speed at roughly 11-12 knots. As far as whether she was armed or not, that too is open for debate, but a number of sources say she had a stern-mounted 4-inch gun and gunners trained to use it. I opted to include it.

 

SS Appam Log
Proposed ship's log for SS Appam.

 

 

Piecing together the exact chronology of Möwe’s encounter with Appam is a matter of slogging through various accounts to come up with a consensus view. Most hold few details, but we know Appam was churning north, likely at that 11-12 knot speed. According to Dohna-Schlodien’s book, he was growing increasingly leery of ships in the area, and ordered the “Red Duster” flying Möwe to cautiously close to within eight or nine nautical miles, then turn onto a parallel course where they were able to establish that it was not an enemy warship, but a medium-size passenger steamer. This did not, however, rule out the possibility of an AMC, at least one of which was known to be operating in the area (HMS Marmora, assigned to the Cape Verde Station). With no sign of a hostile reaction to their approach, Dohna-Schlodien ordered his helmsman to cross the ship’s bow a mile or so ahead, whereby they were able to identify her as SS Appam.

 

51078731062_b5300a0c54_b.jpg

An illustration of the attack on SS Appam from The Illustrated London News of February 26, 1916, based on the recollections of a passenger aboard the cargo-liner. The drawing of Möwe's armament configuration is interesting, albeit flawed as compared to contemporary accounts.

 

Running up the German naval ensign in place of the British, Möwe flashed Appam two signals, the first to halt and the other to cease all radio transmissions. Henry Harrison complied with neither, ordering his ship to continue while the radioman frantically sent distress calls. Dohna-Schlodien ordered the partitions on his 5.9-inch dropped while slowly bringing Möwe around to fire a shot across the liner’s bow, all the while doing their best to jam Appam’s wireless transmissions (a capability I was unaware of). Harrison, having had a good look at his tormenter and reportedly concerned for the welfare of his passengers, ordered a full stop, whereupon she was boarded.

 

While the steamer didn’t dovetail well with Dohna-Schlodien’s profile for targets, the capture of Appam played fortuitously into his immediate needs. After offloading some valuable cargo, freeing the German prisoners, and detaining a number of the British on Möwe, he transferred the 200+ captured crew members of his recent victims to Appam. He then installed an armed prize crew led by Leutnant Hans Berg, supplemented by the seven German POWs already aboard. For the next two days, Möwe and Appam would operate together.

 

Game Prep

 

As I read accounts of this “action” 105 years after-the-fact, I find myself pondering the outcome and the behavior of the “players”. This is necessary, as part of the point of this exercise was to begin the development of some sort of “AI” to use for solitaire games of FAI. It’s fundamentally a determination of what’s technically possible and what the motivations are for certain decisions. To best do that, you have to look at what happened historically.

 

Back in the day, I did something similar for a few operational and tactical scale board wargames. For operational games, it boils down to identifying and establishing “decision points”. For example, if you’re playing an east-front game where the Germans are pushing east early in the war, you have to look at what the historical objectives were, and what the “flash-points” for decision-making might have been. If the Germans manage to establish a bridgehead on the eastern side of a major river, for instance, that is likely a point where the Soviets have to decide what they are going to do (given the time and resources available). They may decide to counterattack vigorously, they may decide to try to simply contain the Germans, they might decide to fall back to another defense line, or they may choose to do absolutely nothing. You weight each of those decision possibilities in light of things such as the tendencies of the historical commander(s), the units involved, supply considerations, maybe the weather, etc., build a table and roll dice when events occur. You can make it as complex as you want, as long as you keep within the bounds of what is reasonable and rational. In this way you can provide a bit of randomness in the behavior of your solitaire opponent. In many of today’s operational scale games, the introduction of random activation serves a similar purpose, although, IMHO, it seems to sharply increase the gaminess feel and occasionally leads to some fairly unrealistic results.

 

Tactical games such as FAI are a bit hairier. First off, the action is simultaneous, so there’s no I-go-you-go sequence of play to mess with. Decisions can be equally proactive and reactive, and they need to be framed by the circumstances. A careful review of the historical action will often provide the framework within which possible decision points can be identified. I have found that using a decision tree, while quite tedious, is very useful in mapping potential actions and weighting the decision possibilities that might present themselves. A variation of this was used during my working life when building complex one, three, and five year business plans, although there it was less about decision-making and more about just predicting financial outcomes.

 

In this case, it makes sense to play Möwe and let Appam be guided by the dice. Harrison’s objective is pretty straightforward – get his ship safely to Plymouth on time. His reaction to the possible threat posed by Dohna-Schlodien and Möwe, once identified, is the crux of the matter.  

 

I freely admit to knowing very little about things such as the rules of navigation, i.e. who yields to who when ships encounter one another on the open sea. Certainly distraction, if allowed, can play into it, or worse yet, willful disregard. I know this from experience, having on more than one occasion nearly run a large sailboat aground while distracted by various goings-on, both aboard and nearby. Unlike me, Henry Harrison, as best I can tell, was a thoroughly experienced master, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

In four days, a half-dozen British ships (including Ariadne that morning) had gone to vapor, yet shipping officials and the Royal Navy were apparently none the wiser. At first this might seem counterintuitive, but rolling the clock back a century, it becomes less so. Information flow between vessels and shore or other vessels, especially passenger ships, was routine, but minimal. Ocean-going ships were generally equipped with wireless equipment, but as seen on many occasions, the gear remained technically primitive, subject to problems in signal direction, strength, protocol, and/or inexperience by the operator (both sending and receiving). Failure to reach a ship by radio was indicative of a problem, but efforts to determine its fate, especially freighters, was often begun only after its failure to arrive at its destination by its scheduled call date. Reports of confirmed enemy sightings or attacks were routinely sent, but Appam had received none. In light of all of this, it’s not unreasonable that Harrison was unaware of the immediacy of the danger his ship was in.

 

SS Appam E
SS Appam as seen from Möwe after she had stopped (from Dohna-Schlodien's 1916 book recounting Möwe's first voyage).

 

Harrison, then, clearly had reason to be wary of the general, but not the immediate situation, on January 15. His voyage since leaving Dakar four days earlier had been uneventful. They’d received no reports of commerce raiders operating in the area. If anything, his concerns likely centered on the threat posed by submarines which were known to occasionally operate along the West African sea lanes. He was cruising at a speed that would get him into Plymouth on time and in the most fuel-efficient manner. Appam was not, however, zig-zagging or making any precautionary course or speed changes.

 

Historically, Harrison did almost nothing to save his ship, despite observing an admittedly rather generic British-flagged vessel operating in an erratic, if not threatening manner. It’s important to try to understand the rationale for his action (or inaction). He had options. Perhaps the welfare of his passengers, as he told Dohna-Schlodien, was his primary concern. Had there been published results from a contemporary board of inquiry (if one was held), those would have been quite useful.  

 

As best I can tell, Möwe comes over the horizon on a southwesterly heading. At a distance of 9-10 nautical miles she makes an approximate 100+ degree turn onto a course that roughly parallels that of Appam. Travelling at a speed likely 2-3 knots faster than the passenger steamer, Möwe, flying the British red ensign, turns onto a northwesterly heading that will take her within a mile of Appam, eventually across her bow.  

 

Through all of this, one is left to wonder what Harrison is thinking; perhaps even more importantly, one is left to wonder what Harrison could have done. By the time Möwe turns onto a course paralleling Appam, Dohna-Schlodien’s 5.9-inch battery is nearly within range. It seems to me, the critical and most rational decision point comes when Möwe turns to begin her run-in on Appam’s starboard bow. Harrison’s best chance for escape, perhaps only chance, is to abruptly turn away from the British-flagged tramp, go to flank speed, and man the 4-inch on her stern.

 

Models, charts, and dice in hand, we go to the table.

 

After Action Report

 

Based on the accounts provided by a few of Appam’s passengers, the weather on September 15 was near perfect. Sea conditions were “moderate” with a light chop. Visibility is clear all the way to the horizon in all directions. The air temperature is a balmy sixty degrees, water temp some ten to fifteen degrees cooler.

 

By mid-morning, Dohna-Schlodien has brought Ariadne’s crew aboard and dispatched the freighter by use of one of his precious torpedoes. His lower decks now crammed with prisoners, he orders Möwe off to resume a course to the southwest.

 

Around 1200, a lookout on Möwe reports smoke off the starboard bow, an unknown vessel on a due north heading. If they continue on their present course, Dohna-Schlodien determines that they will pass well astern of the ship. Wary of a rapid approach but hoping for a closer look, he maintains his heading for nearly thirty minutes, then orders the helmsman to bring Möwe around to a due north heading, roughly paralleling the other vessel. With the distance between them just ten miles, Dohna-Schlodien determines the ship to be a cargo-liner of some 8000 tons, but of unknown nationality. Keeping Möwe on her present course, he orders her speed increased to 13 knots, allowing them to slowly begin pulling ahead. Continuing for nearly an hour, he waits for some perceptible reaction by the other captain.

 

Aboard Appam, Captain Harrison is in the officers’ mess enjoying a lunch of salted kippers and brown bread, going over the morning fuel report with his engineering officer. At 1250, he is called to the bridge where he is told of the presence of an unidentified ship running on a parallel course, approximately ten miles off their starboard beam. When he asks how long the ship has been coming up from behind them, he is told that the ship actually approached from the northeast, then turned onto a course abreast their own. When he hears this, he berates the watch officer for not having called him to the bridge earlier. Through his binoculars, he sees a rather nondescript tramp pushing along at a speed slightly ahead of his own. Wondering why it made a rather sharp course change to mimic his own, he convinces himself that, while peculiar, it is not immediately concerning. He decides they will continue on their current heading and maintain their current speed (a d12 roll of 2 on our reaction table), while keeping an eye on the nearby ship.

 

At 1336, Dohna-Schlodien orders a course change to the northwest, which, if both ships continue their current headings and speed, will take Möwe across the liner’s bow at a distance of slightly more than a mile. Approaching a range of 14000 yards, he orders his gun crews to their hidden stations.

 

While the unidentified ship was still close to ten miles off and gradually pulling ahead of him, Harrison began to think that it might not pose a threat. Other than possibly a correction for a navigational error, he still had no explanation for its sudden course change, but as both ships continued on a parallel heading and the amount of water between them continued to grow, he was content to proceed while keeping an eye open. This temporary sense of disregard abruptly dissipated when the tramp started into a turn to port, taking a line that would cross Appam’s bow uncomfortably close. He ordered a signal sent, calling for the freighter to stand off, but there was no response. As the distance between the ships closes and thinking a collision possible, Harrison pondered momentarily whether to try to turn inside the tramp and pass him astern, or simply turn away and throw the stokers into high gear. Now beginning to suspect ill-intentions, he elected the latter and ordered a gradual 30-degree turn to port while telegraphing for flank speed (a pair of d12 rolls of 1 and 4 on our reaction table).

 

As the steamer started her great arcing turn to port, Dohna-Schlodien ordered Möwe to flank speed. The combination of his opponent’s hesitation, the ship’s turn, and Möwe’s increased speed has dropped the distance between them by another 3000 yards, now down to just 8600 yards. His radioman, monitoring transmissions from the liner, reports silence.

 

But now Dohna-Schlodien has a problem. The combination of turns and speed changes by both ships have left Möwe nearly dead astern of the liner, which is almost imperceptibly starting to pull away. Without a forward deck gun, he has no chance to take a shot at a target dead ahead; a shot will require a turn in either direction, bringing his 5.9-inch to bear. Such a turn will slow him considerably, allowing the liner to open the distance between them even faster.

 

Deciding he has little alternative, he orders a turn to starboard, the British ensign taken down and the German run up. A signal is sent announcing he is a German auxiliary cruiser and demanding the liner stop, which, in combination with a warning shot, Dohna-Schlodien hopes the Brit heeds. The partitions masking the 5.9-inch are lowered.

 

Harrison, studying his pursuer from astern, can’t observe much of what’s going on aboard the ship. He can, however, see that the “Red Duster” has been replaced with a different ensign, one he is unable to recognize from 4-1/2 miles away. Regardless, he knows this is further evidence of trouble, shortly confirmed by the message that his pursuer is a German warship together with a demand  that he stop his ship. He disregards the message, directing instead that distress calls be sent. Maintaining his heading and speed, he orders all of the passengers to their cabins and his stern-mounted 4-inch manned and ready (a d12 roll of 12 on our reaction table). With the safety of his passengers and crew in mind, he directs the RN gun-crew that they are only to fire if fired upon.

 

While the radioman does his best to obliterate Appam’s distress calls, the 5.9-inch wait for Möwe’s turn to bring the liner into their arc. At 1440, Dohna-Schlodien gets his shot, but the turn has cost him over 1000 yards of range. At 9600 yards, they straddle the steamer, throwing up two towers of water on either side.

 

SS Appam G
SS Appam under fire by SMS Möwe.

 

Minutes feel like hours as he tries to outrun his pursuer. Harrison sees the flash of the German’s guns just a moment before the splashes erupt next to Appam, one shell landing just forty feet off his stern, sending a cascade of water and a few splinters clattering along the sides of his ship. The next salvo, or possibly the one after, will likely auger into Appam with catastrophic effect. While he knows the range will lengthen if both ships continue on their present courses (which the German must if he is to continue firing), perhaps running his ship beyond effective range in a matter of 15-20 minutes, the risk of even a single hit is too great. While the Englishman yearns to continue the fight, he has to consider the welfare of his passengers. He orders the gun team to stand down and a message sent to his pursuer, “Stopping” (a d12 roll of 10 on the “continue or stop” reaction table).

 

(end of pt.2)


  • simanton and Brooks Witten like this


#15180 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 29 March 2021 - 12:13 PM

Three Days of the Seagull

January 15-17, 1916

 

Desiring a distraction from the North Sea, I’ve been spending a lot of time of late reading up on the war on the open Atlantic (and Pacific). The surface actions there are much smaller in scale tactically (i.e. number of ships on the table) as compared to the great sparring matches conducted in the waters immediately separating Britain and Germany. The Mediterranean remains largely a mystery, one yet to be explored.

 

The idea of gaming commerce raiding by surface ships seems counterintuitive at the tactical level. A high percentage of the actions would encompass an auxiliary cruiser stopping and scuttling a merchant ship. That’s not exactly pulse-racing stuff. There were, however, actions that entailed armed merchant cruisers (AMC), armed merchantmen, auxiliary cruisers, Q-ships, and traditional naval ships, overlaid by the uncertainties of limited intelligence, training, the wireless, weather, and a healthy dose of luck, good and bad.

 

I had originally planned a quick two-ship solitaire game of the events of January 16, 1916, a simple exploration of commerce raiding as executed by SMS Möwe and her master Graf Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien during their first voyage, but I soon decided to expand it to include the day before and the day after. A sort of mini-campaign of commerce-raiding, these three days seemed a representative snap-shot of Dohna-Schlodien’s methods, highlighting the opportunities presented, seized, and/or dismissed by the Royal Navy. Before throwing ships on the table, however, I wanted to better understand how things had gotten to this point. Here’s my rather long-winded take on the general situation and Möwe’s initial exploits.

 

51081988666_5951163468_z.jpg

SMS Möwe, location and year unknown. Likely a war-time photo, she appears to have her false masts raised. A Gazelle-class light cruiser is moored behind her.

 

The Kaiserliche Marine (KM) was founded as the linchpin in proving Germany a great imperial power, one that had global reach and strength. It was a departure from Bismarck’s Central European notions and disinterest in territories overseas. This shift came in the last years of the 19th century, with the Kaiser and Chancellor Bülow calling for territorial expansion, while others such as Admiral Tirpitz, argued for the product of German industrialization be dedicated to this end. This, of course, would bring Germany into direct confrontation with the greatest of imperial powers, Great Britain.

 

Tirpitz reportedly believed the inevitable clash with Britain was unlikely until 1918-1920, giving him scarcely two decades to provide the build-up of the German fleet. It was a tall order, but one he nearly pulled off, moving the KM from the sixth largest fleet in the world to one being second only to Britain’s Royal Navy. It’s important to note that, while Tirpitz’ creation may have been second in terms of numbers, many naval historians consider the KM’s assets to have been, pound-for-pound, superior to those of the RN. The real problem for Tirpitz was one of geography.

 

It’s interesting that Tirpitz called for the build-up of the fleet with an eye toward supporting Germany’s territorial expansion, yet failed so badly in providing for it. The bulk of his efforts went toward challenging Britain in the North Sea and breaking its presumptive blockade, while doing little toward the likely possibility of having to enforce one themselves. This failure was not only one of assets, but also the development of a logistical network capable of supporting a war beyond German coastal waters and the North Sea.  

 

The failure, despite a lot of hard work, to develop adequate coaling and resupply arrangements with neutral or otherwise non-belligerent countries would prove disastrous. While some of this can be laid at the feet of a largely inept German diplomatic corps and the inattention of Tirpitz and his staff (Imperial Naval Administration), it was Britain’s aggressive strategy of “bunker control” which provided the British the ability to restrict/ration access to fuel for international commercial shipping and naval vessels. In August 1914, Britain had a network of 181 coaling stations around the world, nearly all well-developed and in favorable locations. The Germans had nothing so robust, and within months of the war’s start, the slim network of coaling stations they had assembled had begun to unravel. This forced the KM to rely upon a support structure consisting nearly exclusively of auxiliary colliers and depot ships, the operation of which would prove tenuous.

 

The prewar plan for commerce interdiction centered on the construction and use of a fleet of cruisers, operating across the globe, supported by a network of land-based coaling stations and, where required, colliers and supply ships. To this end, the decade or so prior to the war saw the construction of a substantial number of light cruisers, many of which were intended for commerce interdiction. However, with the war breaking out years before Tirpitz’ plan anticipated, the strategy ran afoul of competing priorities within the Navy and the general build-up of the fleet. Far fewer light cruisers were built than planned, and of those constructed, many were assigned to the High Seas Fleet’s scouting squadrons. Those which did operate as commerce raiders did so with some success before being hunted down and destroyed (see Emden, Karlsruhe, Königsberg, and to a lesser extent Dresden). Liners converted to armed merchant cruisers (AMC) also figured in German plans, but they, together with the light cruisers, proved expensive to build, operate, and ultimately lose.

 

The experiences during the first year of the war led to a thorough reassessment of the plans for commerce interdiction. The U-boats were quite few in number and, despite a handful of successes, there remained considerable skepticism regarding their ultimate capabilities. The submarine was still seen as a recent technical development by most naval theorists, and the very traditional-minded KM leadership remained strongly wedded to the surface fleet. While an expanded submarine construction program had been commenced within months of the war’s outbreak, the number of boats at sea were few. Until those numbers could be substantially increased, the navy’s strategy of interdiction, what little there was, would continue as a function of the surface arm.

 

The poor logistical situation, together with the inefficiencies of operating coal-hungry AMCs and light cruisers, drove the KM to quickly move the surface raider program toward the use of relatively modern cargo ships converted to auxiliary cruisers (Hilfskreuzer). These were relatively plentiful, generally small in size, economically efficient, and able to operate in an “anonymous” manner. While fast enough to overtake most merchantmen, they were unlikely to outrun a warship. They were, however, armed sufficiently to engage small unarmored warships if encountered, an eventuality thought to be unlikely. Because they were plentiful, inexpensive to build/convert, and quite efficient to operate, they were seen by some at the Naval Office as expendable. SMS Möwe and her sisters were the product of this operational course-change.

 

__________

 

My initial glimpse of SMS Möwe (alternatively SMS Moewe) came a few years ago while plowing through newspaper clippings, researching an unrelated topic. In the August 23, 1956, issue of the New York Times, I saw a short article announcing the passing of 77 year-old former Korvetten-Kapitan Burggraf Graf (Count) Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien, the commander of a WWI German commerce-raider, which, according to the New York Times, “sank 200,000 tons of shipping in 1915-1917”. Presuming that the typical tramp steamer of the day was quite a bit less than 5000 tons, it seemed a rather remarkable score for both a ship and master I’d never heard of. The clipping went into a folder for later reference.

 

It turned out my initial impression was warranted. A bit more reading revealed that Möwe did indeed produce an impressive record, one that exceeded 40 enemy ships sunk during just three sorties (some sources credit Möwe with up to seven voyages, but this seems unlikely), including the old pre-dreadnought battleship HMS King Edward VII (by a mine laid by Möwe). Her record of success is deemed best of any commerce raider in either war. She ran the blockade three times, out and back, which itself is quite a feat when considering the strength and numbers of the Royal Navy’s blockade. While Dohna-Schlodien was clearly a skilled commander, Möwe seemed imbued with considerable good fortune.

 

She was built as the refrigerated freighter Pungo, launched in 1914, one of the famed “banana boats” operated by the Laeisz shipping company between Germany and its colony of Kamerun (today’s Republic of Cameroon). A year later she was requisitioned by the German Navy and renamed Möwe (Seagull), first for use as a tender, then converted into an auxiliary cruiser at Wilhelmshaven, commissioned as such in November, 1915.

 

A list of her armament seems to vary somewhat by source, but the consensus seems to be four deck-mounted 5.9-inch naval guns, a single stern-mounted 4.1-inch naval gun, and either two or four deck-mounted single 19.7-inch torpedo tubes. She could also carry up to 500 mines. For the purposes of disguise, the 5.9-inch were hidden behind collapsible partitions, and the 4.1-inch was disguised as deck-gear on her stern. The crew had the ability to alter the height of her masts, and she carried paint and materials such that they could significantly alter her structural appearance (even to the point of adding a false funnel).

 

SMS Mowe D
Proposed "best-guess" ship's log for Möwe.

 

In the eyes of her KM handlers, she had one huge operating advantage. As a former freighter, her relatively low speed together with enlarged bunkers filled to capacity gave her a vast operating range. She would be sent on her way, requiring little and promised same, a throw-back to the days of nationally-sanctioned piracy on the high seas.

 

Her commander, Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien, was born April 5, 1879 at Mallmitz, an industrial town in Lower Silesia. The fifth of five children, he joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1896 shortly after his seventeenth birthday. Within six years he had been promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See). He would serve aboard the battleships SMS Wittelsbach and SMS Braunschweig before receiving his first command in 1910, the river gunboat Tsingtau of the East Asian station. In 1913, he was made navigation officer of battleship SMS Posen, with the rank of Korvetten-Kapitan. In 1915, Dohna-Schlodien was transferred to the Hilfskreuzer program (overseen by Admiral Hugo von Pohl, who was terminally ill with liver cancer at the time), where he either chose or was assigned the converted Möwe as his command.

 

Möwe departed on her first cruise in the last days of December, 1915. Her point of departure is variously attributed to Wilhelmshaven (site of her conversion and commissioning) or Kiel, which are technically both correct, as it is likely she departed the yard at Wilhelmshaven, then passed through the recently-widened Kiel Canal to reach the naval base at Kiel. By so doing, Möwe avoided the extensive minefields off Cuxhaven and the onerous, dangerous task of sailing up and around the western Denmark coast. From Kiel, she would instead pass through the Skagerrak into the North Sea, where she could proceed surreptitiously along the southern Norwegian coast before heading west. It would be the first, and not the last, demonstration of Dohna-Schlodien’s considerable navigation skills during his commerce raiding career.

 

SMS Mowe
1/2400 Möwe by Panzerschiffe.

 

At a time when the North Sea should have been teeming with trawlers, drifters, submarines, and the odd patrolling warship, Möwe made her way across to the Pentland Firth and the channel leading to Scapa Flow unobserved, continuing west as far as Cape Wrath, quietly sowing a 250-300 mine field. The fact that Dohna-Schlodien and his crew accomplished this unchallenged over, by some accounts, multiple days, seems beyond belief. Perhaps the Royal Navy felt the tidal and seasonal weather conditions too difficult to contemplate such a possibility, yet it would cost them an eleven year-old battleship (HMS King Edward VII) and a few freighters, not to mention closing much of the strait to traffic for many months.

 

HMS King Edward VII
HMS King Edward VII, lost January 6, 1916, to a mine laid by Möwe west of Scapa Flow.

 

From these northern Scottish waters, Möwe proceeded out into the Atlantic, down the west coast of Ireland (although it wouldn’t have surprised me if Dohna-Schlodien had the stones to venture down through the Irish Sea) turning southeast toward the French coast. There she sowed her remaining mines, probably to the relief of her crew (mine laying, not to mention transport, is dangerous work). With the decks cleared, Dohna-Schlodien set a course south toward the shipping lanes along the West African coast.

 

On January 11, 1916, they encountered two merchantmen off the northwestern coast of Spain, a pair of British freighters. The first, SS Corbridge, was bound for Argentina with a load of coal. After a brief chase, she was taken intact as a prize and sent across the Atlantic to a point off the Brazilian coast and a future rendezvous for recoaling Möwe (Dohna-Schlodien was already planning a transatlantic crossing to the South American coast). SS Farringford, a freighter carrying a load of copper ore, was sunk by gunfire after her crew was taken off.

 

Two days later, January 13, another three British-flagged freighters were dispatched, one (SS Dromonby) being a westbound collier intended for recoaling British warships operating off South America. In three days they’d captured one ship and sunk four others, each without an alarm successfully raised by use of the victim’s wireless. Möwe, however, was getting a bit crowded accommodating the crews of four merchantmen, less the prize crew sent west aboard Corbridge.

 

(end of pt.1)


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#14912 Help getting started: DD classes, Figurehead minis and the Solomon Campaign.

Posted by OffshoreBreeze on 13 September 2020 - 01:16 PM

Thanks Brook,

 

It’s not that I’m pdf averse per se it’s more a combination of factors from the fact I don’t have (or can realistically afford a PC) only an iPad (they’re great but they are not replacements for actual computers as they’re too limited by apple) and if I buy the hard copies I get the pdfs anyway. I’m still attached to analog reference material and like to have them even if only as a back up. At the current conversion rates and as I’m shielding by the time I’ve bought them digitally and then paid someone to print them (and I’d want them to be as nice as ODGW provide) it will cost more (if I could find a way to get it to them - iPad again). It’s not the end of the world and my problems are very first world and unimportant, I’m not giving up on GQ3 as I’m hooked from just reading through it (and love Post Captain) but I’m not giving the current U.K. distributor one pence of my meagre funds. My father in law and wife now want to start a new company and distribute ODGW stuff in the U.K. (I’m too ill to contribute but fully approve) as the service I received was lousy and shouldn’t happen today. I’m just waiting for a response from ODGW to see if it’s possible.

 

Thank you for the supportive words, I bear no ill will to ODGW, they are excellent and deserve all the success they can get, if possible I’d like to help promote their products on this side of the pond.

Thank you also to all those great people on this forum as they have been very welcoming and helpful

 

Stay safe and well

Andrew


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#14835 Help getting started: DD classes, Figurehead minis and the Solomon Campaign.

Posted by OffshoreBreeze on 07 August 2020 - 03:53 PM

Greetings ODGW’ers,

 

Recently I bought Post Captain (I know not the correct forum but bear with me) and was blown away by its design and presentation. Just before lockdown I borrowed my friends gaming tablet (sooo much temptation) and on it is GQ3. I read it through, marvelled at it and started thinking about playing but have come up with some questions I need answers to:

 

~ concerning US Destroyers and specifically Figureheads range of 1:6000 miniatures. When trying to represent Bagleys do you use the minis labelled Craven Class? From Wiki-p I think I have worked out that the USS Craven was a Gridley Class and the 1500t ships were the Gridley, Bagleys and Benham. There seems to be only minor differences aesthetically (especially at such a small scale) so does the Figurehead Cravens represent all three of these DD classes? I’m going to buy the rules/campaigns next month but can afford a few ships now so......

 

~ I intend to get The Solomon’s Campaign (and the fictitious 1937 US vs Japan campaign after I read up on the Uss Panay and was hooked). Can anybody give me a list of what ships HMAS, US and Japanese (and any I’ve missed) are needed for this campaign? Not specifically the Names (although it would be helpful) but the Classes and No. so I can make a shopping list and get a head start (I’ve got relevant Ospreys but I’m not currently well/capable enough to plow my way through them and need a hand up from knowledgeable old salts).

 

~ I think I’m going to use 1:6000 as it looks the most reasonable but I do love GHQ miniatures 1:2400. For people playing with 1:2400 what size table are you using? And what are your opinions about the appearance on table?  And do most people use 1cm = 100yds or 1cm = 200 yds. The problem I have is I think I’d be quite happy doing mainly DD stuff with a few bigger bits (haven’t seen the campaign yet and I know what I’m like when I get excited about a game) but don’t want to hamstring myself for doing stuff later on. I know this comes up in every naval forum and I’ve probably read all the posts but wonder if you have anything else to add specifically about GQ3? I’m not interested in 1:4800 due to hassle and quality. I did like the idea of Navwar 1:3000 but some people don’t seem that impressed by quality, any thoughts or comparative pics?

 

Thank you for taking the time to read through all this (and also to my wife for typing this up as I lie in the dark full of Oramorph and covered in Lidocaine patches).

 

Offshore Breeze (Andrew)


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#14435 Using Black Seas Ships?

Posted by Cpt M on 29 November 2019 - 06:38 PM

Well, now we have a 1/720 set of gauges in the Download section for Post Captain (Under the Bonus Files, Play Aids).  I just up scaled the 1/1200 versions.  The Turning Gauge comes out to 5+" in diameter (a bit of a beast, that).  And the Movement Gauge had to be done in 2 parts since its too long (you can tack the halves together to get the full gauge).  The gauges are available at:

 

https://www.odgw.com...20-r2-20191128/

 

Enjoy!  (I just finished up 2 of the Black Seas brigs and converted another into a large topsail schooner.  Will be getting these on the table this weekend.)


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#13456 One Year Anniversary of My Blog

Posted by Brian Weathersby on 09 March 2018 - 01:27 AM

So March 8 was the one-year anniversary of my blog ( https://mymodelsaili...ps.blogspot.com ).  In honor of that minor milestone, I've added a post about the anniversary with some looks at what posts have been popular over the last year.  I also take a look at where my visitors have been from, and discuss some ideas for the second year.
 
One of those ideas, a page of books useful for the Age of Sail gamer was posted today also.  To make that first post easy, I reviewed Sam Willis' Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century.  Please come by, check things out, and feel free to leave some comments.
BWW 

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#11800 The Horror at Wolfenberg Historicon 2015

Posted by Guy on 20 July 2015 - 08:49 PM

Our Scenario for the Wolfenberg Game:

 

The Horror at Wolfenberg  Scale: 15mm; Rules: ODGW Mein Zombie;  No. of Players: 9. Germany, March 1945. The horror is spreading East and West and has brought the war to a virtual halt.  Agent Blaskowitz reports that “it” is spreading from the German Paranormal Div. facility at Wolfenberg & the trapped scientists hold the key to stopping it.  The race is on .  Take command of Panzer Grenadiers or British Air landing troops, & join us for the debut of the Mein Zombie Squad Rules.

 

LG ran this three times during the Con with Mike Moran and I assisting.  The first time we played, the players were experienced Mein Zombie or other Zombie game players.  They were a little scared about the amount of noise the Military weapons made.  We also started them too far away from the objectives.  After shooting a lot on game turn one, both sides went silent after that.  They moved slow and got bogged down with heaps of zombies, neither side got close to the objective, but killed lots of zombies.  I don’t believe there was any human/ human combat.

On the 2nd run, we adjusted some things and started both sides closer to the camp.  Human on human combat started immediately.  This group also realized that they had so much firepower, the noise was irrelevant.  They were killing zombies and each other with glee.  The British Air Landing platoon breeched the wire and started clearing buildings.  The Germans made their way to the front gate in force, eventually parking their halftrack in front of the camp “Cooler” where the scientists were.  A good shot from a KOSB PIAT destroyed the Halftrack and the Infantry squad riding in it.  There was hard fighting with the living and undead until the game ended, but the scientists were not released.

 

For the 3rd run, we started even closer.  We had a good crew of experienced players.  Both sides were using their weapons to good advantage on the “Walkers” and the enemy.  The British mortar landed their first shot in an abandoned German Halftrack that was the German resupply point, and it went up with a 20 Noise counter bang.  The British attempted to flank the Germans with their Recce jeeps.  The Hun tried to counter with a half track, only to have their MG-42 Jam on their first shot.  The British jeep returned fire, causing damage.  The next card pulled was the German squad with the one German Panzerfaust.  They scored a direct hit and killed the jeep and crew.

The lead German squad breached the front gate, but took heavy British fire from the snipers in the Guard tower and were also mobbed by Zombies.  They eventually lost 4 of their 6 troopers.  The British were steadily clearing buildings and found the 3 scientists and their 3 guards.  As they tried to exfil with them, the Germans raced their halftrack right up to them.  The scientists tried to scramble into the track, which caused a firefight that cost half the scientists and guards.  The Germans were able to get the rest out of the camp before the British could bring up a PIAT and stop them.  German Victory.

WE learned a lot about how to adjust the rules and the scenario to make things play faster and easier.  Everyone who played all 3 games told us how much they liked the scenario and that with a few tweaks it would be even more fun.  The 3rd run was probably close to perfect.  We look forward to doing this again!!  Thanks to ODGW, Mike Moran and Kenny Noe for all the help and encouragement!!!!

Attached Thumbnails

  • 2015-07-17 19.45.43.jpg

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#11222 Stats for other weapons

Posted by William Cira on 23 December 2013 - 01:03 PM

I think it would be interesting to develop stats for some additional weapons such as the katana, the chainsaw, and the RPG launcher. 

 

The katana has a very high coolness factor due to the Walking Dead series and the new set of female survivors from Wargames Factory has a hilarious woman with an RPG launcher.  That one would of course be very noisy. 

 

I don't think the chainsaw would be an ideal weapon to use becuase of the noise, but it seems like every survivor set has them. 

 

Just a thought.  No big deal. 

 

Bill


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#15598 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 14 October 2021 - 09:26 AM

Action off Ameland

22 April 1915 (part 2)

 

Prelude

 

Bonaventure and her escort of four destroyers departed Harwich in the early afternoon of the 21st, aiming to rendezvous with E13 shortly after dawn on the 22nd. Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Layton, E13’s captain, had orders to continue his crippled submarine’s slow progress due west, with radio contact kept to an absolute minimum. Anything and everything that could be done to keep the operation “on the q. t.” had been put in place.

 

There were no elaborate plans around E13’s recovery. If she remained seaworthy, Willis (Bonaventure’s captain, Commander Stanley Willis) planned to take the submarine in tow and drag her back to Dovercourt where repairs could be made. If any issues of seaworthiness arose, the crew would be taken off and she would be scuttled. Willis estimated his speed with a 660+ ton submarine in tow would be around seven knots, dreadfully slow given the dangerous environment that was the southern end of the North Sea.

 

RotS North Sea

 

Bonaventure covered the nearly 220 nautical miles in a bit less than 16 hours, reaching the submarine at first light on the 22nd. E13’s condition had not changed overnight; with her single functional diesel, her surface speed was just five knots, half of what she could do submerged running on her electrics. The problem was her lone diesel could not propel the ship on the surface while simultaneously charging her batteries and running her pumps, compressors, and ventilation system. If forced to submerge, Layton figured he could operate for about an hour before he’d have to surface. While Bonaventure’s tow speed was scarcely better than E13 could do on her own, it did offer Layton a chance to fully charge his banks while keeping his other systems running. After some 90 minutes rolling around in the gentle swells, Bonaventure passed and secured the towline and they got underway. Willis’ watch read 0918.

__________

 

Hamburg pushed north-northeast at a leisurely twelve knots, her torpedo boat charges strung out abreast on her starboard side. Collectively, they’d not seen or encountered anything overnight, and were scheduled to begin their great arcing sweep east-northeast in a couple of hours. Von Gaudecker had received a number of messages from Wilhelmshaven after midnight, one of which advised of a major HSF operation dispatched toward Dogger Bank. While no role was assigned to his Flotille, a subsequent message reported a U-boat’s sighting of, amongst other things, a group of enemy warships some 80 miles northeast of the Thames estuary, pushing ahead on a northeasterly heading late the previous day. Other than time and heading, no further information such as speed or composition had been provided.

 

At 0930, Gaudecker ordered the torpedo boats into column astern of Hamburg, a maneuver Keil (Second-Lieutenant Wilhelm Keil, commander of 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla/19th Half-Flotilla) completed over the next 30 minutes. Once in position, Gaudecker ordered a gradual 30-degree turn to starboard, redirecting his sweep as planned eastward.

__________

 

Weather conditions are ideal (Force 3) and will remain so throughout the day (no weather change). Visibility is 22000 yards, and there is no cloud cover.

 

The weather determination phase of the game turn is replaced by a random events determination phase. This is executed each turn, with a single d6 rolled by the RN player. On a roll of “1”, a second die roll using a d12 is made by the RN player and the umpire consults the Random Events Table. Results are applied per event instructions. Once a d12 result is recorded, it is struck from the list of possible results for the remainder of the game. Should that d12 roll be made a second time, treat as “No Effect”.

 

The game has no time limit. It will end (1) when all opposing ships have been sunk or incapacitated, (2) all units are withdrawn for failed morale checks, (3) as instructed by a random event, or (4) with one side declaring its surrender to the opposite.

 

Initial set-up has HMS Bonaventure proceeding at seven knots at the center of the table on a west-southwest heading with E13 in tow approximately 200 yards astern. Wintour’s destroyers can be deployed anywhere on the table on a similar west-southwest heading, within 5000 yards of Bonaventure.

 

RotS H

 

Gaudecker’s force enters in column at a location and speed of its choosing from the southern table edge, presumed to have already sighted the British ships.

 

The game will be played on a 5’ x 9’ table (15200 yds x 27400 yds) with the ability to scroll the surface as required. Three players and an umpire...we'll figure it out.


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#15592 Mein Panzer Core Rules Version 2.1B Now Available!

Posted by Bob Benge on 10 October 2021 - 12:56 PM

I am excited to announce that the 2.1B update has been completed and is now ready for everyone to upload. The print version will be going out to the printers and will hopefully be available within a few weeks in the store. The updates include updates to the formatting, added examples, updates and clarifications to rules and tables, graphics updates to the markers and templates. The download version now also contains all scale templates. I highly encourage all current owners to download the new file. 


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#15588 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 06 October 2021 - 09:09 AM

This was tentatively scheduled to go off this weekend (09/11/2021) but we got a last-minute request to help out with the annual meet of the Mason-Dixon Historical Society and their antique farm equipment show, so things will get deferred for a bit. The back half of September looks quite jammed, so may slip to early October.

Yet another delay; we’d planned to do RotS II this weekend, but I got an invite to the Navy-Southern Methodist game for this Saturday (Oct. 9), and I felt compelled to offer my support. One might think that the USNA could make quick work of a bunch of Methodists from Texas, but that seems unlikely. SMU, currently ranked 24th in the nation, looks to be a stout opponent for a largely one-dimensional Navy squad. No matter, the tradition of a Navy game is a great experience and, if nothing else, the flyover is always brilliant.
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#15531 Its a Long Way to Paramaribo

Posted by W. Clark on 13 September 2021 - 01:21 AM

Duel off Guiana AAR

Rear Admiral Palliser (RN) had over slept. He as Deputy Commander ABDA Flot had come to Tjilatjap to plead with the Commander ABDA Flot, Vice Admiral Helfrich (RNN) to release the Dutch East Indies Fleet for use in the defense of the DEI. He spoken with Helfrich upon arrival the day before and it had been in vain. He had finally gone to bed tired and frustrated over the Dutchman’s stubborn refusal to listen to reason. The Dutch had been withholding their fleet because they felt the Americans and the British had no real intention of trying to hold the DEI and were just using the Dutch to gain time. To put it mildly, the Allies were very unhappy with the Dutch. This coupled with the Dutch woes around the world had left her isolated diplomatically.

 

Palliser stepped out onto the balcony of his upper story room and gazed at the harbor. But there was no Dutch fleet lying at anchor as there had been the day before. Palliser summoned his Flag Lieutenant. Where are they, Flags? Palliser queried. They are gone, Sir replied Flags. I can see that. Gone where? I don’t really know Sir, but when they sailed a few hours ago their crews were on deck singing; “It’s a long way to Paramaribo, it’s a long way to go.” Paramaribo? Where the devil is Paramaribo? I think it a port in Dutch Guiana, Sir?

 

The Argentine Government was on the outs with her unwanted big brother the Norte Americanos and while they did not necessarily want to be on the outs, they also didn’t particularly care. Why should they break ties with Germany just because America wanted them to? Meanwhile things were jumping around the world and Argentina had been watching the Allies growing problems with the Axis with interest. The Dutch in particular had been on decided down turn for almost two years now. The Germans had invaded and occupied Holland and they did not seem have any intention of handing it back. Now the Japanese were taking the Dutch Empire in the DEI away despite the Americans and British. Everyone seemed to be kicking the Dutch. Then the Argentines remembered Dutch Guiana. With everyone distracted across the Atlantic and in the Pacific maybe now was a good time to be aggressive. To make a long story short, the Argentines sent a troop convoy escorted by the newer bulk of their fleet and took Paramaribo. They were now in the process of establishing control inland while their fleet remained in Paramaribo harbor.

 

Now the Dutch were coming to take back their own from an opponent they could face up to on their own. Its long way to Paramaribo, it’s a long way to go; 12,929 nm to be exact.

 

Time: 0800 hours       Wind: Force 5 Northwesterly            Wind Speed: 20 knots

Smoke: 1 GT               Squalls: None             Sea Haze: None          Sky: Overcast

 

 

 

 

Royal Netherlands Navy Far East Squadron

Cruiser Division: VAdm Helfrich        Destroyer Flotilla: RAdm Doorman

CL HrMs De Ruyter FF                        CL HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck FL

CL HrMs Java                                      DesGroup 1                             DesGroup 2

CL HrMs Sumatra                               DD HrMs Banckert DL            DD HrMs Evertsen DL

CL HrMs Tromp                                  DD HrMs Van Ghent              DD HrMs Kortenaer

                                                            DD HrMs Van Nes                   DD HrMs Piet Hein

                                                            DD HrMs Witte de With        DD HrMs Van Ghalen

Heading: N      Speed: 14 knots

Armada Argentine

Cruiser Division: VAdm Juan Valdes DesRon 1                                 DesRon 2

CA ARA Admirante Brown FF            DD ARA Cervantes                 DD ARA Buenos Aries

CA ARA Veintcinco de Mayo             DesDiv 1                                  DesDiv 3

CL ARA La Argentina                          DD ARA Juan de Garay           DD ARA Entre Rios

                                                            DD ARA Mendoza                  DD ARA Corrientes

                                                            DesDiv 2                                  DD ARA Missones

                                                            DD ARA La Rioja                     DesDiv 4

                                                            DD ARA Tucuman                  DD ARA San Luis

                                                                                                            DD ARA San Juan

                                                                                                            DD ARA Santa Cruz

Heading: S      Speed: 14 knots

 

The day was overcast and the low cloud cover seemed to be affecting visibility. VAdm Juan Valdes (ARA) was on the bridge of his flagship, the Admirante Brown leading the center column, comprised of the cruisers. DesRon 1 and DesRon 2 were also in columns about 5,000 yards to port and starboard respectively. The destroyer columns were echeloned back about 3,000 yards.

 

VAdm Helfrich (RNN) was also on the bridge of his flagship, the De Ruyter leading the cruiser division in a column. RAdm Doorman (RNN) was in the cruiser, Heemskerck about 5,000 yards to starboard and echeloned back about 3,000 yards. RAdm Doorman lead the destroyer flotilla (also in a column).

 

At 0842 hours the mastheads of Admirante Brown and De Ruyter reported “Enemy in sight dead ahead”. Both admirals ordered full speed and their spotter a/c launched.

Valdes ordered a 6 point turn to starboard and Helfrich ordered the same to port. The range was just over 15,000 yards when they opened on each other.

Admirante Brown missed as did De Ruyter. The cruisers had accelerated to 19 knots by this point as each division followed its leader in succession. The Argentine destroyers took station ahead (DesRon 2) and astern (DesRon 1). RAdm Doorman took station astern the cruiser division.

That all took up some 12 minutes to accomplish while the cruisers continued to increase speed to 24 knots. The exchange at this point was lively but not accomplishing much. Then the Dutch made a two point turn to starboard and started to close the range.

 

Almirante Brown hit De Ruyter once the hull. de Mayo hit Java once in the hull. La Argentina hit Sumatra twice, knocking out her fore gun and damaging a bulkhead. De Ruyter fired at Admirante Brown and missed. Java and Sumatra both fired at de Mayo and missed. Tromp and Heemskerck fired at La Argentina and they hit her once apiece, knocking out her fore turret and damaging her engines, slowing her to 20 knots. The destroyers were plinking away at each other at extreme range and the Argentine destroyers were even throwing a few shots at Tromp and Heemskerck. A lot of splashes, but no hits.

 

Sumatra fixed her bulkhead. Valdes ordered La Argentina to withdraw under smoke and she turned away. She would break her engine during attempts at repairing it that would take a dockyard to fix. Valdes ordered DesRon 2 to close and torpedo attack the Dutch cruisers. DesRon 2 turned four points to starboard and increased to 35 knots. The ARA cruisers also increased their speed to 29 knots, but the Dutch cruisers were restricted to 26 knots by the hull damage to Java and Sumatra.

 

The turn by DesRon 2 meant they were closing the range rapidly. Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, Corrientes and Misiones (all firing rapidly) concentrated on De Ruyter, but only Misiones hit her once and then only a search light platform. San Luis, San Juan and Santa Cruz (all firing rapidly) concentrated on Java and hit her twice, knocking out her searchlight and damaging her hull. Admirante Brown changed to Tromp and missed her. de Mayo fired at Heemskerck also missed. DesRon 1 and the Dutch destroyers were still over 12,000 yards apart, but Cervantes hit Banckert once in the hull; but the rest of DesRon 1 missed. The Dutch cruisers switched targets to the destroyers bearing down on them. De Ruyter with her fore guns hit Buenos Aries once in her engines. Java and Sumatra missed. But Tromp hit Admirante Brown once knocking out her fore turret. Heemskerck fired at de Mayo and missed. All the Dutch destroyers missed.

 

Buenos Aires failed to fix her engines and turned away under smoke to repair. The remainder of DesRon 2 continued at 36 knots and threatened to cross the Dutch Tee. VAdm Helfrich tried to respond by turning two points to starboard and ordering up his destroyers at full speed. The Argentine destroyers continued to fire by division. DesDiv 3 hit De Ruyter once in a magazine but she managed to flood it losing her fore gun mount in the process. DesDiv 4 missed Java. Admirante Brown missed Sumatra, but de Mayo hit Tromp thrice, but the only hit that had effect was one to her engineering. Cervantes hit Heemskerck thrice, once in her aviation facilities causing a fire, once in the hull and a hit to her engineering. Juan de Garay hit Banckert thrice, knocking out three of her four guns. Mendoza hit Van Ghent once, but it jammed her rudder to port. La Rioja hit Van Nes once, damaging a bulkhead. Tucuman hit Witte de With once, in her DCT.

De Ruyter hit Entre Rios four times, knocking out her fore TT mount, damaging her hull and all her fore guns. Java hit Mendoza thrice, knocking out both her fore guns and damaging her hull, slowing her to 31 knots. Sumatra missed entirely. Tromp firing at Admirante Brown, hit her four times, knocking out all her MB, damaging bulkhead and further damaging her hull. Heemskerck fired at de Mayo and hit her twice, knocking out her fore turrets. The Dutch destroyers now hit the DesRon 1 seven times, but who cares. We really want to see if Juan Valdes makes morale and he did!  OK, back to the ARA destroyers and their hits. Cervantes lost her fore gun; Juan de Garay lost her fore TT mount; Mendoza suffered hull damage; La Rioja lost her fore gun and suffered hull damage while lost her fore gun and TT mount.

 

VAdm Valdes ordered his cruisers to retire under smoke and his destroyers to execute torpedoes attacks to cover his withdrawal. The destroyers were then to withdraw under smoke also. DesDiv 3 targeted De Ruyter with its remaining five quad mounts inside 4,400 yards. De Ruyter tried to evade but failed and was hit 5 times with two spreads getting two hits each. De Ruyter took 17 damage to her 6-box hull and sank. Java also tried to evade and while doing that ran into 4 torps which gave her 12 damage to her 6-box hull and sank her. As she was going down another hit her in her bridge. DesRon 1 aimed it torpedoes at Tromp and Heemskerck and hit Heemskerck once. Heemskerck to 6 damage to her 5-box hull and sank.

 

The Argentine destroyers turned away under smoke without seeing what they had done. The Dutch without any admirals (both went down with their ships as all good admirals do) and decided to withdraw as best they could (they failed morale and who wouldn’t).

 

And as the sun set on that portion of the pond, you could faintly hear; It’s a long way to Paramaribo. It’s a long way to go. It’s a long way to Paramaribo to the worst die rolls I’ve known. Say good bye to Surabaya, farewell Batavia. It’s a long, long way to Paramaribo but that’s where I’ve gone.

 


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#15526 FAI redux

Posted by healey36 on 11 September 2021 - 06:58 AM

Swift was a Fisher "special."  The drawing in Conway's All The World's Fighting Shipe 1906 - 1921 shows two single torpedo tubes on the centerline.  One is aft of the third funnel immediately forward of the first of two large ventilators forward of the mainmast.  The second is between the mainmast and the aftmost 4" gun.

I need to run down another copy of Conway's 1906-1921. As has happened too frequently over the years, I lent it to someone and that was the last I saw of it. Tracking down a "new" copy at a reasonable cost looks a challenge. 


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