I'm a new user of this forum, and this will be just an experiment, since it's my first AAR ever. Sure, it's not my firts RTW2 game, but being a non-English speaker (I'm actually Italian) makes things a lot harder for me.
Another point I would like to make: I decided to make an AAR after the game was already on from quite a bit... you will see from the starting date. But, contrary to my usual games, it turned out to be quite successful and full of interesting twists, so I finally decided to share it with you. I will try to make up for past events during the role-play. Maybe it will make the whole thing more interesting.
GAME SETTINGS: Starting 1900 Manual Build of Legacy Fleet Standard Resources (not Historical) 90% Research Rate
I'll try to role play it a bit to justify the fact that we started in the middle of a conflict! And I ask apologies to all of you for my sloppy english, not suited for sure to a military report... but I'll try my best.
Former commanding officer of the Italian Carrier Squadron
From his personal journal:
2nd June 1925: Summer has come early this year, such a pity I will not be able to enjoy its pleasures anymore. My wounds are healing pretty good, but some scars will remain forever with me. Nothing remains of my left eye, this black leather patch makes me look more like a seasoned buccaneer than an old navy officer.
A memory picture of my roommates in the military hospital
It took me 4 months to recover from the wreckage of my ship, the Corazzata PortaAeromobili (Carrier Battleship) RN Giulio Cesare, during that infamous day, when those French bastards sent our whole squadron of carriers to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
We left Naples port at h1940 on the evening of 20th January 1925 after intelligence reports saying that a big French convoy was leaving Marseilles to bring supplies and reinforcement to the enemy troops in Tunisia. The fighting in North Africa was raging on with great losses on both sides. I was in command of the Carrier Battleship Squadron, aboard RN Giulio Cesare followed by RN Leonardo Da Vinci, both old Regina Elena Class Battleships, converted in 1922, with a tall superstructure supporting a flush flight deck, to allow take off and landing of the CANT Z73 Torpedo Bomber Biplane.
We were sailing westward in support of the Battle Cruiser Squadron, but the winter weather and the bad sea conditions did not allow us to intercept the enemy, and in the darkness we lost contact with the main Cruiser formation as well, so we followed the planned return route.
At h0545 on the morning of 21st January, just 120 miles south-west off the Sicily coastline as a warm daylight brightened up the haze around us, the spotters on one of our escort torpedo boats signalled the "unknown contact" flag. Long slender shadows loomed just some hundred yards from us. We supposed that those dark silhouettes must have been our battlecruisers, but what happened next still haunts my worst nightmares.
Shells from both heavy and medium calibers whistled through the air and suddenly the whole sky around us was ablaze with thundering guns. We rapidly counted the masts and the funnels in the fog, at least 3 enemy capital ships were firing almost point blank range on our carriers.
The RN Leonardo da Vinci was the nearest ship to the enemy, and in the first 30 seconds took at least 3 heavy caliber hits right into the hull. Fortunately my RN Giulio Cesare, was showered nothing but with splashes from near misses, as column of water rose high as the topmast.
Just after the first moments of shock, I ordered full rudder to starboard and full steam, trying to disengage from the enemy formation. The ship listed heavily due to the hard turn and the rough sea. But the RN Leonardo da Vinci was still on his course, they were the nearest target so every gun at bear was firing at will, and soon it turned the carrier into a flaming chunk of metal. Our escorts tried a torpedo salvo at least to fend off the enemy destroyers that were charging full steam to deliver the final blow.
As we progressively were putting yards in between us and the enemy, the day grew bright, and the fog lifted, revealing an imposing entire Battlecruiser squadron on our tail. At least eight 14-Inch barrels staring at us, hurling shells from a distance. At h06:15, less than 30 minutes in the fight, a lucky 14-Inch shell plunged right into the flight deck, passed through the hangar, and several below crew decks before detonating right inside the belly of the RN Giulio Cesare. The horrible Booom noise still stuck in my head. At first the damage control team, reported no big issues, the engines were untouched, and still going full steam, and no flooding of the compartments, it only started some small fires in the lower decks. I ordered to continue to steam east, hopefully we can reach the Sicilian shore and put some more distance from the chasing hounds.
Explosion aboard the RN Giulio Cesare, picture taken from the escort destroyer RN Palestro
But one and a half hour later, suddenly and without any notice, another big explosion shook the whole ship from inside, lifted the center portion of the hull up, out of the water, splitting the structure in half. A ball of fire and smoke blasting out of the hole of the previous 14-Inch shell. Me and all the officers on the deck were thrown to the ground, showered by burning splinters, blinded and deafened by the explosion.
From this moment on, it's only chaos and confusion... only blurry memories of those moments of terror.
I don't know how I managed to be recovered by one of our escorts, and brought back to land. But this is how that infamous day ended.
The shell that apparently did little damage, ruptured the tanks with the aircraft petrol, and the hangar and lower decks were filled with fuel vapours. After more than an hour the whole ship was a ticking bomb... just a small spark or flame detonated the deadly atmosphere bringing the last of the Carrier Battleships to the bottom of the sea.
4th June 1925: Today I started again to read the newspapers, my only remaining eye starts to focus again on the written pages. I learn that our Regia Marina has finally delivered a decisive blow last month to the French Méditerranée Force, sending all their battleships to the bottom of the sea. This victory allowed our Ariete Motorized Division to land with the cover of the night, just north of Tunis, cutting down the supply lines of the enemy.
Finally the table has turned in our favour, even if I know the news have to be taken with a pinch of salt... The information is strongly filtered by the Regime press.
Today I received a mail from the Ministero della Difesa directly signed from the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (which is the Duce himself ad interim). As usual for an official communication like this, a two page mail is written, but the meaning is very simple and straightforward:
Amedeo di Savoia the King's Cousin
"[...] S.A.R. Amedeo di Savoia, Duca degli Abruzzi, due to his health problems, and loss of willingness to exert the duties indispensably related to [...] Irrevocably renounces to His position as Chief of the Regia Marina, [...] "
So finally the Duce has managed to remove the last of the royal family members from their seat in Rome? Since April 1923, when the Black Shirts Fascist Militia managed to march on Rome for their Coup d'Etat to the Italian Monarchic government, he has desperately tried to erase the Royal family supporters. And contrary to the Army, the Navy did not support the Fascist Coup, remaining neutral in the politic dispute.
Now the Duce is offering me to replace the King's Cousin as Chief of the Navy? How strange fate is? Sure I've never been that kind of Officer that seats in his office all day long, neither the one that gets used to parades and high uniform balls...
But I suppose that this is not a polite question, even if it's written like such, but it must sound like a decree without escape...
To back up my idea that the letter from the Ministry of Defence was not a polite question, this morning a truck full of Camicie Nere Militia, came to the Hospital, asking for me. My doctor quickly signed my discharge letter, and I was gently escorted out of the hospital with all my luggage.
We headed for the train station, where they put me on the first train to Rome... destination Piazza della Marina.
Palazzo Marina (Palace of the Navy) in Rome
13 June 1925: Maybe I'll get used to sit on my armchair... someday. They introduced me to my new staff, all the people that were working with Duke Amedeo have been replaced too, so everyone is still trying to figure out how things work up here... Coffee is good after all, I miss only one thing: the crushing sound of the waves on a ship's bow.
In the last 10 days, I was too busy grasping all the useful information from the tide of documents thrown at my desk. So I can finally have the latest situational report of our forces. For the moment I will focus on the comparison with France, since we are in the middle of a conflict, but in the future months I will try to plan in advance, looking at other possible enemy navies:
The French are left with no Battleship at all, after the sound defeat they suffered in April, but they still have quite numerous and powerful Battle Cruisers, though they are mostly bound in the North Sea, fighting our German Allies. We are left with 7 BBs, even if they are the oldest one. We still have some old and obsolete armoured cruiser as well. We outnumber the French also regarding light cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers. In submarine warfare we are ahead of them in numbers 36 to 25, but our subs are mostly old short range coastal vessel, compared to some new French design with much higher tonnage, range and firepower.
Seaborn aviation will be a topic of its own, but for now we are stuck in a 1 to 1 tie with some sort of aircraft carrier converted cruiser.
Anyway I can count on a pretty solid budget, in the past decades the Chief of the Navy have always been very close to the Royal Family, so a big slice of the pie was always given to the Regia Marina.
Also the chests of the treasury are quite full. I can afford to spend some of those money in order to achieve great results in this war with France. Now I must prepare to meet with the chief of the Ufficio Progetti (Design Bureau), to analyze the situation of the vessels in service up to now. I think it will be a long meeting... better ask for some coffee first.
Meeting minute with Ufficio Progetti - Battleship situation:
We currently have 7 BBs, 5 Francesco Caracciolo class and 2 more capable Pompeo Magno Class.
FRANCESCO CARACCIOLO CLASS
This is the first mono-caliber battleship design, planned and laid down in the firs years of the century thanks to a collaboration with the US Norfolk Naval Shipyards. The ships were commissioned from 1908 to 1910, starting from the RN Francesco Caracciolo, RN Andrea Doria, RN Caio Duilio, RN Marcantonio Colonna, right to the last RN Francesco MOrosini. The whole 5 ship class was refitted some 10 years ago with the better 305mm guns from Officine Ansaldo, together with an improved Fire control systemand moving the secondary battery from casemates to turrets. This somewhat helped the ship sea handling capabilities, but the short range and quite cramped spaces for the crew, made it suitable only to fight in the nearest waters of the Adriatic Sea during the past two conflicts with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their 22 knots speed made them formidable runners in the 1910's, but now they are slow, outgunned and not enough protected, simply no match for other nation's Capital Ships.
I will need to replace them as soon as possible. Since I don't see anymore room for improvement from their 18900 ton hull.
POMPEO MAGNO CLASS
Laid down in 1915 and 1916 the RN Pompeo Magno and RN Ottaviano Augusto form today the backbone of the Italian line of battle. With their superimposed layout of twin 13-Inch turrets, they represent a modern design, the best that the Italian Cantieri Navali di La Spezia could provide, back in those years, for the Regia Marina. The RN Pompeo Magno,was later brought back to La Spezia for a minor refitting of the main 330mm (13-Inch) guns, with heavier barrels to improve accuracy and muzzle velocity, and to replace the 16 old 3-inch tertiary battery, with 12 modern 76mm dual purpose guns and 14 light Anti-Air 13,2mm Breda 31 machine guns. This 31400 Tons Hulls are very good and stable platforms, we can surely forsee a long life for this two ships, with some heavier re-fitting in the near future.
I have to make a special mention to the RN ROMA and RN IMPERO, both sunk on 20th April 1925 during the great fleet engagement off the Gulf of Tunis, that marked the first great victory for our Regia Marina, but at the highest cost of the lives of our sailors and officers.
ROMA CLASS BATTLESHIP:
Commissioned in 1922 both ships were a first attempt at a Super Dreadnought Battleship, with 10x381mm/40 Guns from Ansaldo, these 34000tons monsters, could sustain 24knots of speed, even at full load. To achieve this they had to sacrifice some protection, with a compromise 11,5 inches belt armor, and little torpedo protection, to keep the hull slim and fast.
We spent instead a great amount of time discussing about the new class of Battleship that has already been laid down, and are under construction at the moment. One hull has begun laying its keel in the Cantieri Navali di La Spezia Shipyard two months ago, it will be RN Vittorio Veneto, naming this class of ships, while the second sister ship will follow alongside in the next few days RN Monte Grappa.
The specifications for this battleships main armament are still classified to most people, even some of the engineers working on the project. And when I looked at the files... I understood the reason why.
VITTORIO VENETO CLASS BATTLESHIP
The Vittorio Venetos will be using eight 406mm guns that Ansaldo has developed in great secret. No other nation, apart from the British, have yet developed such big weapons for their ships, and frankly speaking Ansaldo engineers in Genoa, think that the Elswick Armstrong 16-Inch/45 guns are no match for our 406mm/50 caliber long-barrelled guns.
Those ships are supposed to reach a stumbling 26knot speed, touching the thin line that separates a Battleship from a BattleCruiser, while retaining a pretty decent armour, though the shipyard designers had to come to a sort of compromise, limiting the maximum belt thickness only to those areas considered of vital importance for the ship. With a 130mm thick armoured deck I think that this makes a really formidable foe for any other Capital ship afloat at the moment.
The only set-back is the cost... and the fact that they will not be launched until 3 years time. And we cannot predict which ship will be around at that time in the future.
Anyway I insisted with my Design Bureau officer that any capital ship in the future should have one or more of those new floatplane catapults.
This class consisted of 3 ships RN Varese, RN Umbria and RN Lombardia, of which only the latter is still afloat. Launched in Kiel Werke, Germany between 1918 e 1919, they are good sea handling ships with decent speed, firepower and protection. The 5 centerline turrets design is appealing to me, but speaking with the Ufficio Progetti they say that it's not ideal for armour layout optimization.
CONELIO SILLA CLASS BATTLE CRUISER
This Class of 2 ships RN Cornelio Silla and RN Francesco Ferruccio has been commisioned from the Portsmouth Dockyards in England from 1920 to 1922. Standing at a massive 32400 tons of displacement and with 15-Inch main battery, they are the biggest and most heavily armed ships currently in service in the Regia Marina. They seem to me like a good and reliable design at least on paper, and they can be the starting point of some major re-fit program and can hopefully fulfill their job for the years to come.
To be honest I really don't like the idea of the Battle Cruiser itself, neither how it has been used in the last years in the Regia Marina. Hunting down enemy convoys with such big and expensive Capital Ships, has led to many losses in the Battle Cruiser line, while not contributing much during the big fleet engagement, where already pretty fast Battleships, with 23-24 Knots speed could out-manouver the enemy 19-20Knot Battleships.
I will need to revise the doctrine in this area... but I don't have any ideas yet, maybe this war with France could give us some experience to build on for the future years.
Speaking about Cruiser warfare, the situation was quite good:
We have some 25 years old rusty Incrociatori Corazzati (Armoured Cruisers) of Marco Polo Class, slightly re-fitted in 1908, but slow, short-ranged, and outdated. Their use is limited to floating coastal batteries outside our main ports, so I'll don't even bother speaking about them... they will sail to the scrapyard as soon as this war will be over.
And then we have the 3 new CONDOTTIERI CLASS "Super Cruisers".
RAIMONDO MONTECUCCOLI CLASS HEAVY CRUISER
Standing at nearly 13000 tons, this cruisers RN RAIMONDO MONTECUCCOLI, RN GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI and RN GIOVANNI DELLE BANDE NERE are born for trade warfare and commerce raiding, 254mm long range main guns in two triple turrets, a secondary battery capable to fend off any torpedo boat attack, 29knots top speed to outrun Capital Ships, and long range capabilities. The armor stands on the lower side, but as I said, this are not meant to stand in the main battle line, so the need is to avoid penetration from 4-5 inch guns of small protected cruisers and destroyer escorts.
Light cruisers comes in many shapes and sizes, but they are all mostly capable vessels.
LIGHT AND PROTECTED CRUISERS
NINO BIXIO CLASS PROTECTED CRUISERS The oldest of them are the Nino Bixios, 7 of them are still in service. Though they are an old design, dating pre-1900, their 6500+ tons displacement allowed for 2 batches of re-fits, the latest in 1913. With a main battery of 6x152mm breach loading guns, they are showing the sign of aging, but they are still fit for convoy escort duties.
SALERNO CLASS PROTECTED CRUISERS They have been the backbone of the Regia Marina light forces, proving their reliability in the previous war with Austria-Hungary. Of the starting 10 ships, built from 1908 to 1910, only 4 remain in service, though with major refit in 1922, other 4 ships being sunk and other 2 scrapped. Standing at less the 5000 tons displacement at full load, they were cheap to build and to maintain in service, but this meant that they could carry a main armament of 125mm quick firing guns, instead of the usual 152mm guns. This compromise allowed anyway to avoid having a secondary battery of smaller guns for self defence. The latest 1922 re-fit, removed the submerged torpedo tubes for the newest deck-mounted triple launchers for 19" long-range torpedoes. Some Anti-Air Breda Machine Guns have been installed as well.
ESPLORATORE OCEANICO CLASS SCOUT CRUISERS The Esploratore Oceanico comes from the idea of N. Soliani naval Engineer, of an all-round protected cruiser, able to fulfill colonial duties, with long range, a main battery able to at least keep busy other ships of the same tonnage, a secondary battery capable to overwhelm destroyers and torpedo boats, some torpedo tubes, decent speed, and protection enough to stop small calibers. There is some room for improvement, so I think these 4 ships will remain our colonial-duty boats for some time.
BOLOGNA CLASS PROTECTED CRUISERS These 3 ships are a modern version of the Nino Bixios. They have the same main battery of 152mm guns, slightly better protection and armor distribution, deck mounted torpedo tubes instead of the submerged ones, but they are faster with 30 knots speed, in line with the latest concepts of the other main navies.
After discussing with the Ufficio Progetti chief officer about our cruisers, I could feel from his stare that something was wrong... I took a sip at my coffee, and a look at the clock on the wall. We have been discussing blueprints and ship specifications for 5 hours, and the streets of Rome outside my window were lightened up by the glow of the electric lighs.
I dismissed him, so he could get some sleep, we will continue tomorrow.
Than I sat on my armchair, reading the monthly reports from the Admirals and officers commanding home fleet squadrons and abroad colonial posts.
Last week I received some more reports. Admiral Cattaneo wrote me a report on the Coastal Raiding mission he performed in support of our German Allies on the African West Coast:
22 June 1925 - COASTAL BOMBARDMENT ON FRENCH OBJECTIVE - MIDDLE CONGO
h1800 local time OOB: SuperCruiser Division (RN Raimondo Montecuccoli and RN Giuseppe Garibaldi) - Beginning approach to the target. Course 015 speed 20Knots. No moonlight, we hopefully can slip through any French patrol with the cover of the darkness. h2040 - Target spotted - distance approx. 4000m; h2050 - Bearing and elevation set est range 3950m, commencing bombardment, all batteries fire at will, speed reduced to 10Knots for better accuracy; h2052 - we zeroed in on the target, HE shells landing on the objective h2053 - Spotters see 3 enemy patrolling ships sailing line astern, quickly identified as 3 old French protected cruisers, they start firing before we can bear our main gun at them. We receive some minor hit on the superstructure without any real damage, but as soon as they realize they are outgunned, they run away at full steam. h2100 - Pursue of the enemy cruisers has begun, engine at full speed. h2118 - A lucky 6" shot from short range pierces the belt on the starboard side of RN Raimondo Montecuccoli stern. Jamming both the rear 254mm turret and the rudder controls. The enemies try then a torpedo salvo; h2120 - I personally order to manouvers using only the engines, collecting and dispatching orders from spotters running along the ship, in order to avoid at least 2 torpedoes we managed to see in the pitch black water. h2122 - The rudder has been repaired by damage control teams down deck! Finally we can re-join formation with the Garibaldi and go back to our objective. No sign of the enemy cruisers, they disappeared into the darkness, thanks to that lucky shot that temporarily crippled my ship. h2200 - The Jungle is ablaze from our main and secondary batteries, fuel deposits will no longer be available for raiding French ships sailing up to raid the German trade routes, no sign of the French cruisers, but better leave, before they come back with reinforcements.
RESULT Fuel storage destroyed - Italian Victory Some small damage on the RN Raimondo Montecuccoli rear turret. Light damage inflicted on the 3 French protected cruisers, but accurate estimation cannot be done due to poor visibility.
COETLOGON CLASS French Protected Cruiser - probably the kind of ship encountered in the night by Admiral Cattaneo's Raiders
02 July 1925: It's a lovely and hot summer night here in Rome... I'll never get used to live in such a big city, but I must admit that there is something really unexplainable, that makes me feel good when I walk down this streets. Just thinking about the history, going back 2000 years ago, when emperors ruling over the whole known world, were strolling in the very same place where now I'm standing...
I'll take back this picture as a memory of the time spent in Rome
Today I attended my first War Council, where all the highest ranks of the Army and Navy discuss Strategies with the Duce and the Staff of Ministero della Difesa. Since April, after the great victory of our fleet off the Gulf of Tunis, and the landing of Ariete motorized division, the war has gone quite in our favour.
But the fight to take Tunisia and its oil fields is still long and harsh. The French have fortified their position, and our troops, fighting in a foreing environment have lost momentum.
The Duce asks to bring more troops in North Africa, we must absolutely take those oil fields, we cannot keep on relying on our German Ally for this important resource. The future economy of any country will be based on oil, and at the moment we are the only great power in the world, that has no direct access to it. Taking the tunisian oil off the French, means that we'll gain access to it, leaving the French without oil... turning the whole balance of the Mediterranean Sea in our favour.