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#1 W. Clark

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Posted 23 March 2023 - 01:25 PM

Convoy vs Pocket Battleship

Convoy HX2 was heading due west at 9 knots. The Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser and HMCS Skenna (A class knockoffs) were escorting the convoy and 2,000 yards ahead of it. Commander Wisearse, skipper of Skenna and in command of the convoy’s escort, when asked about the forward deployment of the escort; answered in his best impression of Raul Julio (from “the Gumball Rally) “The first rule of Italian road racing is; what’s behind us, we no worry about.” (Best done with a very heavy fake Italian accent).

 

The visibility was 24,000 yards and it was not going to get any better. At 1300 hours the masthead reported a ship dead ahead at max visibility. The ship appeared to be heading east and the lookout ventured that it was a pocket battleship. The Commander sourly retorted, “That makes it a Kraut”. The commander immediately signaled the convoy to turn tail and head for Ireland. Of course, immediately is a relative concept when applied to 15 merchantmen (MM) in three columns of 5 ships each. There could no question of the MM turning away together. Nope, it would be a stately evolution in succession at 9 knots. The Canadians would make smoke to cover the evolution of course but that in itself was no guarantee of safety. The Canucks could only hope for a nice, heavy squall in the very near future. Otherwise, it was a long, long way to Tipperary at 9 knots.

 

One of the Merchantmen radioed Skeena and asked “What’s the Hub, Bub”. The Commander had Signals reply “Pocket Battleship dead ahead”. And remarked, “That ought to stir them a bit.”

Skeena and Fraser tried laying funnel smoke but the Force 3 northwesterly was dispersing it too quickly and the Pocket Battleship (PB) was accelerating towards the convoy. At 1312 hours a series of light squalls reduced visibility 15,000 yards and the Canadians thought their prayers had been answered. But a FP from the PB and the visibility raising to 21,000 yards at 1324 hours dispelled that hope. The DDs went to chemical smoke and evasive movement.  The PB opened on Skeena and missed.

 

At 1330 hours the DDs were not able to cover the port column of MM. the PB hit the Ulster Prince 6 times, sinking her outright. At 1336 hours the PB hit HCMS Fraser 3 times, slowing her to 23 knots. The PB’s secondaries hit the Knight of Malta twice, including a hit to her bridge. At 1336 hours the DDs managed to cover the convoy with smoke for a bit. Who said that smoke is hazardous to your health?

 

At 1342 hours two destroyers from HX1 (a convoy the PB had sailed past unknowingly), HMCS St. Laurent and Saguenay approached from the west some 21,000 yards behind the PB. They increased speed and headed straight at the PB. The PB hit Neville 3 times, including her bridge and reduced her to 7 knots. The PB also shot at Skeena and missed.

 

By 1354 hours the Skeena and Fraser had turned back at the PB to engage her and assist the other Canadian destroyers in closing. The PB’s secondaries hit Skeena thrice, including an engine hit that slowed her to 23 knots. The Canadian’s return fire struck the PB amidships and on her quarter deck without noticeable effect. At 1400 hours, The PB’s MB missed Fraser, but her secondaries and tertiaries at 6,000 yards hit Skeena 4 times causing so much damage that she was sinking by 1406 hours (three bulkhead hits will do that).

 

At 1412 hours Fraser launched both banks of her torpedoes at the PB at about 7,000 yards. At 1418 hours the PB had reversed course when 2 torpedoes struck the PB and immediately sank her. The Canadian destroyers pulled survivors from the water and it was only then that they learned that they had sunk Germany. Herr Hitler upon hearing of KMS Deutschland’s sinking went into a fit and died of an apoplexy. May he roll over in his grave.

 

This AAR is written from the Allied perspective, but the mistakes are all mine.

 

WMC

 



#2 healey36

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Posted 23 March 2023 - 03:28 PM

Thanks for that...convoy battles are the best.

 

I have a GHQ model of Lützow (the renamed Deutschland) somewhere around here. I'll have to drag that out and give it a look.



#3 W. Clark

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Posted 23 March 2023 - 05:56 PM

It will lack the armored conning tower of Graf Spee and will look quite different because of it.



#4 simanton

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Posted 24 March 2023 - 11:07 PM

Biggest change after the renaming was a bow alteration to make Luetzow's forecastle dryer. She never has a multi-sided pyramid style battle mast like Scheer and Graf Spee were built with.  On all 3 panzerschiffen, the armored conning tower was forward of the battle mast.



#5 W. Clark

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Posted 25 March 2023 - 12:44 AM

I thought that big Pagodalike structure was the armored conning tower. Well, learn something new.



#6 healey36

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Posted 25 March 2023 - 09:28 AM

I'm curious...how many merchantmen in your convoy? I've only gamed WWI North Sea convoys, and those were typically quite small, perhaps no more than 6-8 ships. When you start poking around WWII convoys, things seem to get real big, real fast. 



#7 W. Clark

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Posted 25 March 2023 - 12:06 PM

There were 15 in three columns of 5 each (as per the rules). I only have 14 Brit AK-AO-AP (enough for the Med) and had to add an American to fill it out. I chose the Neville as that was most British sounding name among the 20 plus similar types I have for the US (I have every cargo/transport for Laguna Point and Tulagi anchorages at Guadalcanal). I do not normally run convoys. Normally if I can, I abstract them. But at Savo Island those ships were at anchor and the intended target of Mikawa's sortie.



#8 healey36

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Posted 26 March 2023 - 06:48 AM

I have a few packs of unpainted 1/6000 Figurehead merchants...I'll have to pull those out and get them painted/based. Convoy battles involving relatively light units seem do-able at 1/2400, especially using the "scrolling-table" concept, but bring anything bigger than a heavy cruiser or 20+ merchant ships, than 1/6000 seems the best scale.

 

Currently, my only painted 1/6000 merchant ship, SS Glencairn:

 

SS Glencairn
 
Inspired by John Ford's movie The Long Voyage Home.

 



#9 W. Clark

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Posted 26 March 2023 - 12:41 PM

At one point we had too temporarily add a tile to the north to give Deutschland room to maneuver. The tile overhung on the table edge, and we had to be careful not bump it. But it was only needed for a turn or two.

 

I elected to keep the convoy (including its formation) together and not scatter as I'm told would have been the likely case in this situation. However, in my defense the RAW required my DDs to keep the convoy in sight at all times and that is not consistent with scattering the convoy. And of course, I violated that provision, when Skeena sank (but I take comfort in the fact that I really did not want to). However, before it sounds as if I'm pure at heart; I saw the convoy as bait to get the PB within torpedo range. I simply could not win a gun duel and had to make it a torpedo fight. But I could not just go at him, or he would dance away until my DDs were gone and then sink the entire convoy at his leisure. I figured the other two DDs would act as beaters and put pressure on him to head east away from them and towards the convoy. I really would have liked to have had HMS Cumberland, but I didn't get the DR.

 

So, the smoke and evasive maneuver was a wounded duck routine to draw him in that became a real wounded duck and then it got lucky. The plan called for me to torpedo him without loss. The reality was that it cost a DD, a MM and nearly another, besides serious damage to the other DD and at least two other MM. I know that they say you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs but if that were real, my eggs ended up in the cold Atlantic while I played. It's good that this was a game.



#10 Grim

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Posted 27 March 2023 - 01:46 PM

Thanks for the report. Very entertaining!

#11 W. Clark

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Posted 27 March 2023 - 05:26 PM

IMHO it speaks well for Rob's quality of play that I feel compelled to resort to cheap tricks like lots of smoke and evasive maneuver.  Some might say why don't I come out and fight like a man. But they should end that sentence; and lose.



#12 healey36

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 12:29 PM

Reminds me of why my feet remain so firmly planted in FAI; it seems those intervening two decades has things exponentially more complicated. 



#13 W. Clark

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 05:21 PM

Destroyers got bigger and better for one thing. I've no interest in pushing DDs in WWI unless they are being fought as divisions/half flotillas. There are too many, they are too fiddley, and their individual combat power is too little to bother with IMHO. WWI era DDs in WWII are normally. armed with the 4" which means they are 1/2 damage against DDs (takes 2 hits to get 1). Many of them have been reconfigured to roles other than a fleet DD and are even less able to act in that role if they can perform it at all. The S-T class DDs (Stronghold, Scout, Thanet & Tenedos) in the DEI campaign had all been reconfigured historically to mine laying/mine sweeping roles. Their MB had been reduced and torpedoes removed. In DTMB they were all reconfigured back to their fleet DD configuration to give the Allies 4 more poor DDs and not leave the RN with just 4 DDs (1 J & 3 E class) to face the IJN WAF's 24 modern DDs (Fubuki, Akatsuki & Asashio classes). I mount my WWI DDs on division/half flotilla bases so I can use them in large actions (not that I expect to bring any of those off in the near future).

 

The last time I put on a WWI Fleet Action (the Battle of Texel) I eschewed the use of light forces because I had not at that time mounted them on bases and believed that their use would have bogged the game down unacceptably because of the lack. I posted an AAR and Simonton played in it. But it may be that was part of the posts lost in the data drop. Now, I did use their endurance limitations to influence the commander's decisions about what they were trying to do and how and where to go about it. I used the old AH Jutland game map and the DDs endurance from those rules. I set it in Mid 1916 and told the HSF commander that his mission was to engage a part of the Royal Navy, destroy it and affect the balance of power in the North Sea so that a favorable fleet action was possible. I gave him three basic options that he could modify as he saw fit.

 

1. Attack Scapa Flow. He rejected this option because his DDs endurance barely got them there with the ability to get home again and the RN force made it a crap shoot.

 

2. Bombard somewhere on the East Coast of England and try to lure out a RN response that he could then trap and destroy. He rejected this option because he could not determine what response the RN would make before it made it.

 

3. Attack the Channel Fleet of Pre-dreadnoughts. He selected this option because he could strike and be gone before the Grand Fleet could arrive and its destruction would force the rebasing of a portion of the Grand Fleet to cover the Channel opening up future like endeavors until a favorable balance of forces were reached.

 

The Grand Fleet commander in looking over his situation, realized that the Channel Fleet was vulnerable and given the signals advantage he had which allowed him to put to sea before the HSF. He decided to sail for the Jade as no matter where the HSF struck it would have to return home and he would be waiting.

 

To make a long story short, I put the game on over three 4-hour periods on Friday and Saturday at Enfilade using different players. That caused the HSF commander's plan to go arye when a new player decided to attack upon arrival with the Scouting Force and not wait on the rest of the HSF (God save us from Glory Hunters). The Scouting Force destroyed the Channel Fleet but at a cost in hull damage that reduced its speed to that of the battle fleet. Because of this the BCF was able to harass the HSF's flank and slow its return home. The GF having reached the Jade turned west towards the Channel and met the HSF off the Dutch Island of Texel. The HSF was savaged and had to turn north to try and get around the GF. But even if it had succeeded it would have lost all of its DDs as they would have exceeded their endurance and its success was any but guaranteed.

 

The numbers of DDs at Jutland if I remember correctly (and that too is no longer guaranteed) is 61 German and 80 Brit. That is a lot of DDs to push around individually and does not account for the Harwich Force with its additional 2 flotillas (or parts thereof).

 

WMC



#14 healey36

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 06:53 PM

Sounds cataclysmic, just the sort of scrum I'd love to see/participate in. 

 

I've never had a good grip on the range limitations of the WWI DDs. The North Sea is only 380 miles wide and just a bit less than twice that deep (north-to-south). Yet the British M-class DD, for example, is described as having a "radius of action" at 15 knots of 1500-2500 nautical miles. Obviously one is likely doing a bit more than 15 knots in a fleet action; does fuel use increase exponentially with speed? As with an automobile, presumably yes. If so, than a run from Scapa to the mouth of the Jade, which is approximately 600 nautical miles, out-and-back, eats up the "radius of action" at the low end, and that's at 15 knots.

 

It would be nice to see something scalable, speed versus operating range, by class, but I'm not sure one could even find the data to run the numbers. 



#15 W. Clark

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Posted 03 April 2023 - 09:14 PM

Yes, and it reinforces my opinion that the HSF needs to be aggressive in 1914/15 or be prepared to give it up to their unter see boots as far as carrying the naval war to Merry Olde England. By mid 1916 they have waited too long and have missed the boat.

 

The rule of thumb that I use for WWI era DDs is 3 to 2 if you exceed your cruising speed and that is rounding up for most DDs quite a bit. The HSF DDs as I remember have the endurance to reach Scapa Flow and return at cruising speed with almost no allowance for any higher speed time at all. The GF's DDs on the other hand are a bit better off for endurance and are therefore more flexible. Nevertheless, the GF's DDs at Texel (if they had been on the table) would not have been able to return to Scapa Flow without refueling, but they have bases on the Southeast/East coasts of England well within their remaining fuel limit. Not so for the HSF DDs. 

 

WMC


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#16 healey36

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Posted 04 April 2023 - 10:21 AM

Scheer sent DDs as far as the Lerwick-Bergen convoy routes in December 1917. I've no sense how much that stretched the operating range, but when we played it our controller leaned into limiting extracurriculars up and back. He must know something.

 

It still amazes me that ships stumbled around in the North Sea and failed to make contact with known sortied adversaries. How much of that was the likelihood that the Kaiser, the Imperial Naval Staff, and the HSF itself just didn't have the stomach for it (despite their postwar protests and the spin many historians have applied). What's that saying, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile."



#17 W. Clark

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Posted 04 April 2023 - 09:00 PM

I don't know. It seems to me that there was a lot of human error on both sides and at all levels that put a lot of sand in the works. Jellicoe tried to keep track of the big picture by maintaining a plot of the locations of the various parts of the fleet and reported enemy contacts but found it difficult due to poor or no reporting by his subordinates.

 

WMC






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