Saving the Braunschweig (October 10, 1914)
After Action Report
Finally able to get this on the table...takes up from the premise of the earlier post. The action commences at approximately 1730. Cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert has taken SMS Braunschweig under tow, proceeding ENE at seven knots. A dense fog shrouds the ships. The sea is glassy. It’s eerie.
HMS Formidable is proceeding at 12 knots on an ESE heading. Moments earlier Captain Loxley had been alerted to a possible unknown vessel or vessels approximately 1000 yards dead ahead. He orders a course change ESE, turning slightly away from the sighting. Within minutes the fog lifts a bit, giving a glimpse of two ships, one under tow, approximately 1600 yards to port. The ships are mistakenly identified as a Roon-class cruiser leading a Braunschweig-class battleship.
Loxley quickly radios his position, knowing HMS London, the nearest ship of Thursby’s flotilla, is nearly twelve miles, or likely some sixty minutes, away. Other friendly ships, or hostiles for that matter, in the area are unknown.
The range is murderously close. Noting the time as 1736, Loxley orders his 12-inch to open on the cruiser, which has slipped the hawser and slightly increased speed, opening a gap between itself and the BB. Formidable’s broadside brackets the cruiser, throwing up a vast amount of water at such close range. Prinz Adalbert commences fire as well, with devastating effect, her 8-inchers incapacitating both of Formidable’s 12-inch turrets, carrying away her forward searchlights, and stoving in a forward 3-inch mount just behind and below the bridge. Within minutes Formidable finds herself with only her 6-inch secondaries to defend herself, yet there’s no panic.
By 1742, damage-control parties have Formidable’s aft main turret back in action in mercifully short order. The fog has lifted further, visibility now running out to roughly 3000 yards. Loxley orders a speed increase to 15 knots, continuing on an ESE heading. Through his glasses he can see Adalbert has turned ESE on a course that runs roughly parallel to his own, while Braunschweig continues ENE, now at 6 knots. He sees gun-flashes on Adalbert, but the shells pass safely overhead. His own 12-inch aft turret responds, scoring a pair of hits on the cruiser’s hull below and forward of her bridge.
Unknown to Loxley, the damage to Adalbert is severe, her hull laid open by a pair of 12-inch shells crushing two bulkheads and flooding a number of her forward compartments. Her speed plummets to 9 knots. Damage control makes quick repairs to the first bulkhead hit, but flooding continues due to the second. At 1748, she returns fire on Formidable, now at a range of 1800 yards, again failing to find the mark.
Loxley receives word that A-turret is now back in action, and with both her 12-inchers on line, Formidable unleashes another broadside targeting the wounded cruiser. The German ship is obscured by smoke and flying debris as Formidable scores a number of hits. Adalbert’s forward turret is knocked out, a fire burning down to the magazine deck. Flooding of the forward magazine saves the ship, but she suffers more hull damage, her starboard torpedoes are disabled, and her forward boiler room is flooding (engineering). With the forward half of the ship a wreck, her speed falls to just 4 knots.
At 1754, HMS Liverpool, a Town-class light cruiser arrives on the scene. Braunschweig has passed behind Prinz Adalbert, preventing her engagement with Formidable. However, she now observes the arrival of Liverpool, bursting from a fog bank to fly across her stern at 20 knots. A scant 2400 yards off, Braunschweig opens on Liverpool with her aft 11-inch, missing badly.
Formidable resumes a speed of 15 knots, flank speed, and turns NE. At a range of just 2000 yards she delivers yet another broadside onto Adalbert. The British gunners are shooting well this evening, scoring up and down the ship. Additional hull hits are observed, followed by a sharp list to starboard. No fire is returned by the cruiser, and numerous crew are seen going over the side. She will sink in fifty minutes.
Loxley looks at his watch. It is six o’clock, but there will be no tea this evening. Continuing on her NE heading, he orders Formidable to turn her guns on the BB. Braunschweig, masked from Liverpool by the wreck that is Prinz Adalbert, is now fighting for her life. She quickly rounds onto Formidable, and the exchange between the two is withering. At 2400 yards, the German lands a hit at the base of Formidable’s bridge, the blast throwing Loxley and the others to the deck while again disabling her forward 12-inch battery. A second shell burrows into the superstructure, bathing the ship in splinters while taking out a port-side 6-incher. Formidable answers in kind, disabling Braunschweig’s forward 11-inch turret, three of her 6.7-inch secondaries, and holing her badly on her starboard side.
At 1806, Braunschweig attempts to turn NE to bring her aft main onto Formidable, but she is moving very slowly. Below deck, she’s taking on water again, lots of water, but she manages just enough of a turn to get an angle and fires her last 11-inch salvo, sadly falling well aft of the British BB.
Formidable, her forward turret disabled, engages with just her aft 12-inch, scoring four hull hits in quick order. Braunschweig, staggered by the blows, goes dead in the water, listing severely to starboard, her forecastle once again awash. Unwilling to risk annihilation, her captain gives the order to abandon ship. The old battleship will remain afloat for nearly an hour.
No sooner does Braunschweig fall silent, than a light cruiser, SMS Stettin, is observed emerging from the fog some 2000 yards off the sinking BB’s port bow. She churns past Braunschweig at 25 knots, noting the British battleship and light cruiser just 3000 yards to her southeast. Head down, she rips southwest across the table, passing behind the sinking Braunschweig and Prinz Adalbert. At 1818, both Liverpool and Formidable have turned north to pursue Stettin. Six minutes later they have turned due west, while Stettin has turned to the northwest. With the fog having lifted somewhat, Liverpool fires her forward 6-inch at the fleeing light cruiser, scoring a pair of hits (disables one of Stettin’s aft 4.1-inch mounts, and manages a penetrating hit on her aft magazine, safely flooded). At 1830, Stettin returns fire on Liverpool, taking out her forward 6-inch mount before disappearing into a fog-bank.
Scarcely an hour into the action, it’s over. Liverpool turns back to pick up survivors, as a scarred Formidable zig-zags off while repairing damage. Loxley radios his position and that of the departing German light cruiser, hopeful that Thursby’s force can find her before she turns for home. HMS London arrives on the scene three quarters of an hour later, just after Prinz Adalbert rolls over and sinks and moments before Braunschweig follows her. Liverpool picks up less than 200 survivors of some 1300 crew.