Monday, November 2, 2020

Battle of the Humber ~ Part 2, conclusion

 A week later than intended, here's the final part of the naval engagement off England's East Coast.

Following the torpedo hit on SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, the battleship's commander reported severe damage and flooding, leading to reduced speed. The German admiral commanding saw little point continuing the mission. The strict injunction to preserve the fleet sat at the back of his mind, steering everything he did. He ordered the Barbarossa to turn out of line and make best speed back to the Jade Bay. His light cruiser screen moved astern of the battle squadron, ready to deploy to the west or south on the guerre du course mission should opportunity arise. Ahead, the armoured cruisers SMS Roon and Yorck engaged in their own private battle with their opposite numbers in the Royal Navy. 

Some twelve thousand yards to the northwest the admiral could see the oncoming British Majestic class battleships. Their four 12 inch guns outweighed his own fleet's 11 inch. Reluctantly he gave the order for the battleships and armoured cruisers to make the gefechtskertwendung maneuver in five minutes' time.

Moments later the two battleship squadrons opened fire on each other. The air filled with the rumble of huge shells passing overhead, followed by the shattering impact as a few found their mark. SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, leading the German squadron shuddered as a 12 inch shell penetrated her forward turret. The superior German ammunition handling process ensured the blast was confined to the turret and munitions trunk, but the damage was severe. Across the waters HMS Majestic suffered an identical blow as her forward turret shattered under the impact of an 11 inch shell.

Disaster struck minutes later. As the gefechtskertwendung order took effect the British battleships concentrated their fire upon the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The battleship shuddered under multiple 12 inch impacts which destroyed her bridge and steering. What was left of the rudders jammed hard to starboard. Unable to respond to helm or orders the vessel lurched out of line and into the path of the oncoming British.

The end wasn't long coming. Although Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse managed to destroy the after turret of HMS Magnificent she soon succumbed to the concentrated fire of the British fleet. With her captain and first officer killed, a junior lieutenant attempted to strike the colours to save what few lives remained, but he was too late. Roon and Yorck sped by the shattered and sinking hulk a few hundred yards away, eager to make distance between themselves and the enemy before they shared their comrade's fate.

To the south the retreating battle squadron reformed with the damaged and listing Kaiser Barbarossa then shaped a course due east toward Jade Bay. The light cruiser squadron was given orders to harry British shipping along the East Coast as far as they dared before returning home.

The British admiral commanding was wrong-footed by the German's sudden retreat. He was also concerned by the apparent detachment of the enemy's light cruisers and was anxious to drive them off before they inflicted harm on British ports and shipping. The Apollo class light cruisers passing north of the British battle line should have been in position to respond to his orders to pursue either their enemy counterparts or the battleships. Instead they seemed keen to protect their badly damaged consort HMS Intrepid. It was all of a piece with the cruiser commander's performance during the battle, where his ships were badly exposed to superior enemy forces and kept getting in the way of his own maneuvers. A few well chosen and pithy words in the admiral's final report would see the man transferred to command a fishing protection squadron based on Newfoundland if he had any say in the matter.

So endeth the battle try-out of Paul Hague's rules. I've had a number of technical issues in getting this post done and on the blog, so I'll write some thoughts of the game and the rules another time.


Paul Liddle said...

Stirring stuff AJ, I look forward to your follow up. I used to borrow the Paul Hague book regularly from the library.

A J said...

Thanks, Paul. It was nice to play a game with the rules after a long break. I'll post some thoughts on them and the game play soon.

NCC1717 said...

Thanks for this report. I enjoyed the scenario and would like to try it.

The order of battle is fairly clear:

Royal Navy
Four Majestic Class (two identified by name; I will chose two more)
Armoured cruisers Sutlej, Bacchante
Light Cruisers Intrepid, Naiad, Apollo, Andromache
Four destroyers, (Spiteful identified by name; I will presume the other three are the same class)

Imperial Navy
Kaiser Barbarossa, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (I will presume the other two are also of the 1895 Kaiser class)
Armoured cruisers Roon, Yorck
Light Cruisers Endine, Nymphe, Gazelle, Frauenlob
Four torpedo boats (not named, but the newest available would be the S90 class boats S121-S124)

A J said...

You're welcome, NCC1717.


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