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PB vs Convoy 2

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#1 W. Clark

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Posted 20 April 2023 - 05:53 PM

PB versus Convoy 2


Having played the Deutschland/Graf Spee vs the Royal, Royal Canadian, Royal Australia, Royal New Zealand and French navies (not to mention the swabs in the Admiralty) Commerce War Campaign to a draw; we decided to start another immediately. After all, why quit when you are even?


Deutschland and Graf Spee had already been at sea when the war that proved the Great War had not been the war to end all wars started. Graf Spee went south while Deutschland stayed north. Graf Spee hunted isolated merchantmen while Deutschland hungered for convoys.


It was the twenty sixth of September at 1300 hours and a day to remember when Deutschland’s masthead sighted five MM in a column like ducks in a row. The wind was a Force 7 easterly and visibility at 24,000 yards was about as good as it was going to get with a 30-knot wind blowing. Deutschland was steaming due south at 18-knots and the MM were steaming east at 9 knots. The MM appeared to be chasing a large squall that they were not going to catch. Deutschland increased her speed to 21-knots which was a much as the seaway would allow.


By 1306 hours, Deutschland had a sighted a second column of 5 MM to the port of the first and then another row of 5 MM still further to the port of the second group. Herr Leutnant C.W. Michall, the officer of the watch remarked; I think we have a convoy. But where was the escort? The rows of MM turned south in succession with Deutschland in pursuit.


At 1312 hours another, smaller squall hove into sight following the first (about three times) larger squall. At the same time two destroyers exited the east edge of the larger squall steaming SE after the MM at 25-knots. At 1324 and 1336 hours two further squalls appeared from the east behind those that had preceded them. The quartermaster, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War (and an avid follower of Anglo theater) remarked that in his experience this should have stayed on the plain.


Deutschland continued to close but the sea was playing merry hell with her attempt to get an accurate gunnery solution and she held fire for now.  At 1342 hours two more destroyers were sighted to the west. They were heading east at 25-knots. This is when Deutschland opened on the trailing MM (Luxor) of the starboard column with her starboard 5.9” and hit her twice. Luxor slowed at once, lower in the water and would sink over the next twelve minutes.


At 1348 hours a Kent class cruiser appeared beyond the convoy from the south at 25-knots. The first squall was out of sight to the east and the convoy and its escorting destroyers were turning east on the south side of the remaining squalls. The newly arrived destroyers continued due north, but it was apparent that all four destroyers were being as evasive as possible. The Deutschland would have loved to launch its FP for observation and spotting, but the FP could not land on such a sea. The Deutschland took as much comfort as it could from the fact that the cruiser was suffering the same limitation. Deutschland during these minutes hit the fourth MM (El Nil) in the starboard column thrice. Her cargo caught fire and she exploded.


At 1354 hours, Deutschland hit the fourth MM (Masirah) in the port column through a gap in the squalls and knocker her DIW.


By 1400 hours, the four destroyers (the convoy escorts using a squall for cover) were all heading for the Deutschland while the cruiser used the line of squalls to cover her 27-knot move against Deutschland from the NW. Deutschland now switched to the reinforcing destroyers and missed.


At 1406 hours, Deutschland hit the leading reinforcement destroyer (HMCS Saguenay) twice, reducing her fire, but not before Saguenay caused light hull damage to Deutschland.


At 1412 hours the escorting destroyers popped out of a squall and the leading destroyer (HMCS Fraser) caused light damage to the Deutschland’s hull. Deutschland in return hit Fraser 6 times knocking out all her guns and starting a fire from a hit to her depth charge racks. Fraser put the fire out and her skipper upon realizing that all his TT was intact decided to press on (He made his morale and who cares about guns anyway).


At 1418 hours: Deutschland hit the second escorting destroyer (HMCS Skeena) thrice, causing major structural damage, reducing her fire by half, damaged her engines and caused other damage. The destroyers took turns firing back during the time they were engaged to keep Deutschland engaged.


At 1424 hours, Skeena repaired a bulkhead. Skeena and Fraser could no longer use evasive maneuver (their collective speed was now 23-knots) and fired all their remaining quad torpedo mounts (3 out of 4) at Deutschland.


At 1430 hours, Skeena broke her engine trying to repair it (now required a dockyard). The cruiser (HMS Cumberland) popped out of the squall inside 9,000 yards behind Deutschland (I think she had end on fire but with 8” at that range it was moot). Deutschland had reversed her course causing the Canadian torps to miss. But Deutschland’s gunnery now failed her and she whiffed with everything but her 3.5” (and they failed to get a second hit causing their first hit to miss). The destroyers’ guns fell silent, and Cumberland hit Deutschland 6 times, knocking out both her MB turrets, causing serious structural damage (twice) and reducing her to 8-knots. Deutschland’s Kaptain ordered scuttling charges set and abandoned ship (he failed his morale). We counted Masirah as scuttled (3 MM lost in total) and picked up Deutschland’s survivors (We are not mates with Jerry, but we are human after all). The four Canadian destroyers (HMCS Fraser, Skeena, Saguenay & St. Laurent were all knock about pretty good, but could make it home under their own power.


I’ve tried to write this AAR from both side's POV and any errors are mine alone (as much as I tried to share the blame).




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#2 healey36


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Posted 16 May 2023 - 08:55 AM

"...and Cumberland hit Deutschland 6 times, knocking out both her MB turrets..."


I've seen this happen more than a few times with the Pockets, including once at Historicon where I watched my kid shred a pair of Deutschland-class cruisers using a column of three RN six-inch light cruisers. If it had been me, I'd have chalked it up to typical poor die-rolling, but when others do it on a routine basis, I take note. The PBs clearly incorporate design flaws which leave them vulnerable to almost any threat.



#3 W. Clark

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Posted 16 May 2023 - 12:23 PM

My opinion on the Deutschland class is that their sole business is sinking merchantmen in the period that runs from the start of the war until Allied cruisers become generally equipped with SW radar. IMHO, they have no business taking on warships of any description. Until the Allied cruisers are equipped with SW radar, about mid 41, the PB should run directly away from any warship she spots with the idea of breaking contact at dark. I have several reasons for believing this to be their correct course of action.

1. There are many parts of a PB vital to her ability to operate freely that are not behind armor. Unrepairable damage there will end her current attempts at commerce war and force her to return to Germany for repairs, cutting down considerably on her limited time (3 Sept 39 to Mid 41 or about) to conduct commerce war as designed.

2. Her very limited ammo of which complete replenishment also requires her running the gauntlet back to Germany to replenish.

3. Her small batteries that aside from ammo expenditure limit her ability to overwhelm any cruiser quickly enough to avoid damage that might end her ability to carrying on.


As for the design itself. I think they got about as much as they could from the treaty limits imposed, coupled with their about 35% cheat in tonnage allowed. The Dutch concept of the Scharnhorst class as cruiser killers with a 34-knot speed and a group of three acting together would be much better suited. But given the cost to build and man would have been a case of putting all your eggs in one basket IMHO. Anything deployed as a surface raider was going to have to be able to deal with a group of cruisers acting in concert to kill them. A lone PB does not fit that description IMHO. All the above in my case is obviously 20/20 hindsight. But by 1939, it should be conceivable to anyone knowledgeable who expects tech like radar and a/c to continue to improve. The PBs were designed with German WWI experience in mind and times were changing if anyone was paying attention. From when Germany could expect that any Allied cruisers, they ran into would have SW radar until the end of the war the PBs design limitations restricted their use to operations off the coast of Norway. And a great deal of intelligence and planning were needed to avoid just throwing them away.



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