Monday, October 26, 2020

Battle of the Humber ~ Part 1

Action was joined between the defending Royal Navy and the German composite squadrons off the Humber estuary this afternoon. Due to severely annoying technical difficulties I'll post the AAR in two installments. 

The German light cruiser squadron commodore aboard SMS Endine peered through the binoculars at the oncoming British and assessed his options. The temptation to turn to starboard to meet them was strong, but he saw it wouldn't be wise. For one, it would separate him from his battleship charges. For another a starboard turn by his British counterparts would enable them to cross his T. Instead he continued on course and summoned the other two ships of his squadron, Gazelle and Frauenlob, from their station to the south, directing them to thread through the battleship divisions and join him.

The light cruisers opened fire at 12,000 yards range, with HMS Intrepid and Naiad concentrating their fire upon SMS Endine, and HMS Apollo and Andromache focusing on SMS Nymphe. Endine returned fire at Intrepid, and Nymphe at Andromache. The 6-inch guns of the aging British protected cruisers soon made their mark on the leading German cruiser. 

The armoured cruisers HMS Sutlej and Bacchante headed by four destroyers maneuvered to the west of the British cruiser screen, aiming to head off the advancing German armoured cruisers before they could reach the estuary. To the south of the German formation the battleships had to make a slight course correction to allow the cruisers to pass through. Ahead of them the armoured cruisers Roon and Yorck accelerated to maximum speed in an attempt to pass the oncoming British and reach the Humber. 

The light cruiser action grew heated as the British squadron turned on a parallel course to their German counterparts, closing the range to 8,000 yards. Both SMS Endine and HMS Intrepid heading their respective columns began to suffer under the onslaught.

The Roon saw an opening and opened fire on HMS Intrepid. Three 8.2 inch shells slammed into her, causing immense damage and forcing her out of the line. The ship's company of Roon could spare little time to celebrate as they saw the dark shark-like shapes of British destroyers slipping ahead of their big sisters to line up for torpedo shots. The German torpedo boats advanced to engage their counterparts.

As the range closed further the action became general. HMS Intrepid staggered out of the line and steered away from the conflict. Her ship's company were cheered to see the oncoming might of the battleship squadron. Across the water SMS Endine also fell out of line, the 6 inch shells having severely battered her hull. SMS Nymphe took the lead and became the focus of the British cruisers' fire. 

Fierce defensive fire from both sides virtually obliterated the destroyer and torpedo boat flotillas. Two British destroyers succeeded in launching their torpedoes at the German armoured cruisers before succumbing, but both shots missed. Two other destroyers survived the bloodbath only to find themselves between a rock and a hard place. The British cruiser squadron also found themselves where cruisers had no right to be - between the armoured behemoths of the rival fleets. Their situation became starkly clear as the armoured cruisers HMS Sutlej and Bacchante began to fire upon Roon and Yorck and the air filled with the express train-like rumble of passing 9.2 inch shells.

Seeing the British battleship squadron looming up ahead the German light cruiser commodore ordered a gefechtskertwendung (battle turn-away). The squadron flagship SMS Endine, unable to comply due to severe battle damage, made her own way, turning eastwards away from the British battleships.

To the southeast, Yorck's captain couldn't resist the easy target that came under his guns. HMS Naiad paid the price for boldness as three 8.2 inch shells shredded her hull, sending her to the bottom within seconds.

The end of Naiad.

However, German triumph proved short-lived. HMS Spiteful, one of the two surviving destroyers, managed to slip through the smoke and fumes of combat unseen to close with the German battleship squadron and fire her torpedo at SMS Kaiser Barbarossa. The battleship responded with a full barrage from her 5.9 inch secondary guns, obliterating Spiteful in an instant, but it was too late. With less than 4,000 yards to go the torpedo ran fast and true, finding its mark on the Barbarossa's starboard quarter. It detonated with a tremendous roar, sending a spreading plume of dirty black water soaring hundreds of feet in the air. The massive ship shuddered and lurched sideways as the blast wiped out her forward secondary guns. Her speed dropped immediately to twelve knots. Only the excellent German watertight partitioning system saved Barbarossa from worse flooding.

Kaiser Barbarossa takes a solid torpedo hit even as her tormentor is destroyed.

The cruiser squadron disposed of Spiteful's sister ship, HMS Syren, before she could fire her torpedo. Even this minor victory soured as the roar of six inch guns to the north announced the British battleships were coming into action. HMS Magnificent's secondary battery had come to bear on the badly damaged SMS Endine. The aim was true and the wounded flagship disappeared in a hail of shellfire, taking the commodore with her. 

The German Admiral Commanding aboard the flagship SMS Weissenburg remained outwardly stoic in the face of developments, but inwardly he cringed. It now seemed obvious that British naval intelligence had given the Home Fleet sufficient warning to scupper his plans. The aim of getting at least the armoured cruisers into the Humber estuary to wreak havoc on shipping and - time permitting - shore facilities no longer looked possible. A swift revision of his assets brought up a new idea. 

If his armoured cruisers and battleships could damage or destroy the surviving British cruisers the Home Fleet would no longer have vessels to hand fast enough to keep up with his light cruisers. He could order them to conduct a fast raid on the Humber and its shipping, or perhaps a swift guerre de course along England's East Coast. He himself could order a gefechtskertwendung, so directing the squadron home, hopefully fending off the British Home Fleet's attacks as he progressed...

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Game's Afoot

 ...or in this case, afloat. 

Real life is so getting in the way lately, but I managed to clear my gaming table after adding some much-needed storage space beneath it. I have the opportunity to play test Paul Hague's naval rules as it's been years since the last game I played to them. I've set up a simple encounter action, with numerically equal forces of British and Germans. 

German squadron to the southeast, British to the Northwest. Game on!

The premise is that the Moroccan Crisis turned hot in late April, 1905. A German squadron of four battleships supported by two armoured and four light cruisers plus a quartet of torpedo boats assembled in the Jade Bay then surged across the North Sea, intent on destroying shipping in the Humber estuary. If time and circumstances permit it will also bombard the port of Hull. 

Fortunately for the British, the Admiralty signals intelligence bureau intercepted the German naval transmissions, decrypted them and provided three hours' warning to the fleet. A near-equal squadron of four battleships, two armoured cruisers, four light cruisers and four destroyers headed south from the Firth of Forth, intent upon intercepting the German force before it could reach its target. 

A mere forty miles from Hull the German lookouts spy heavy funnel smoke to the Northwest through the showery North Sea weather. At first the German admiral thinks it's a cruiser force conducting a patrol, but more smoke beyond these turns out to be armoured cruisers then battleships. The Royal Navy is on an intercept course, but the German admiral believes he can fend off the enemy long enough to do at least some damage to merchant shipping before heading for home.

I still have work to do putting the garden to bed for the year then I have the last bit of a windbreak to erect. Once all that's out the way I'll get on with the game. Watch this space...

Sunday, October 4, 2020


I haven't posted for a while since I was busy these past few weeks. The Man Cave walls are freshly painted a cheerful shade of yellow, getting rid of the awful beige walls once and for all. Coco Chanel may have championed the use of the putrid shade for interior decorating purposes but it does nothing for me. Edits for my next book are done, with only the cover art to be finalised. The bookends are done and delivered.With all that complete, I knocked out a quick piece of scenery for the naval gaming set up, in the shape of a massive explosion marker.

Paul Hague's rules allow for critical hit magazine explosions which utterly destroy capital ships, so I thought it time I made a marker for the occasion. 

Bang in progress

Bang done. The unfortunate SMS Weissemburg gets to model this fetching design.

I modelled it in much the same way as the torpedo hit markers I made earlier this year. Strips and irregular chunks of foam rubber were glued together. The process differed when I gave the assembled piece a good dose of spray adhesive, then shook dry, baked coffee grounds all over it. Once dried and stuck fast, I gave it the final touch, a go-over with Krylon black spray. The photo shows it as more brown that it looks in real life. I don't anticipate needing it more than once in any game move, but knowing my dice luck it might well turn out that I'll need two or three more.


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