We sail about for three days and find nothing, our forces embarrassingly failing to detect the enemy sweep. What a calamitous waste of ops points and coal. This may shake crews' confidence in my competence - steaming on those cramped warships for 72 hours, sleeping in hammocks, all the time waiting, waiting for action, can be nerve-wracking. Oh well, maybe we'll catch them next time.
Although we were swinging at shadows last turn, a large proportion of the HSF now have a crew rating of ‘2’. Next turn Kronprinz will have finally finished repairs, meaning the fleet will be the readiest it can be by then, so this week I need to ration my OPs to build back up from our previous expenditure. In two weeks we'll be able to sortie in strength once more.
Despite the fighting down the Broad Fourteens last fortnight, I neglected to make use of my nearby Flemish forces. With the Harwich Force's pre-dreadnoughts (and their crews, poor lads) now well-acquainted with the local fish population, I feel it's time to give the destroyers something to do - I intend to send out the now well-trained 4th half-flotilla in a night raid against Channel traffic. At the same time, Brummer will touch up the minefields off Texel. Heavy units will be held in reserve.
The destroyers file one by one out of the Zeebrugge canal, just as night falls on the windy, moonless night. They slip through the northern gap in the Channel minefield. It is hard to see in the dark, so at times the division cuts engines and listens for sound carried on the wind.
In amongst the shipping.
The low, faint thumping of a freighter's engines to the east are cause for investigation. As it grows louder, the noise of faster revolutions begin to drown it out.
A pair of patrolling destroyers have inadvertently cut us off from the distant merchant. The Tribals, armed with three 3-inch guns, are no match for our half-flotilla of oversized destroyers. We quickly deal with them.
Dawn is approaching, so I forgo searching for the freighter in favour of passing by Dunkirk's guns while it is still dark. By this time Brummer has laid her mines.
No more activity to report. Worryingly, three submarines failed to return.
Post by georgeles on Sept 26, 2021 14:16:29 GMT -5
a large proportion of the HSF now have a crew rating of ‘2’. ________
One thing I've found out is that the AI doesn't train ships other than those the Chief of Staff chooses, which is to say, units with a negative value. So to make it more challenging, I've limited my own training. I confess I cannot bring myself to go quite that far, but these are the limits I allow:
1. Train all those the CoS designates. Sometimes you have to skip a few. 2. Go into the Force List. You can often train more of those there than you can on the CoS list. 3. I do allow two cases beyond that: a. If I transfer a ship to another division, I train that division. b. If there is one ship in a division training from the above, I do allow myself to train the whole division.
But beyond that, nothing. I suppose even the 2 exceptions may be an unfair advantage.
Another thing the AI doesn't seem to do is transfer units (either ships or divs) from one force to another. Thus it won't do what you did (and the Germans actually did) in putting quality destroyers in the Triangle. Nor, if the BC force (either side) is short of, say, DDs, will it reinforce that. I haven't done it, but I am tempted sometimes to go in and fix it. I'm put off by the warning of changing sides. Would entering, making some fixes, then save an leave, break the game? Maybe I'll find out eventually. (I would do this only when there is a low chance of action soon. In fact, I'd sit out the next few turns. There have been other games when I would do this.)
I like the training handicap idea you've imposed on yourself. I'd copy it, if only I wasn't scared of losing! Being able to get the first blows in due to better gunnery training, often at long ranges (like Goeben's 18,000 yard hit), really makes the difference in most battles, preventing the sort of disaster that I can't afford but that the RN can. It'd be a short game if I were as unfortunate as my opponent.
I know for certain the British had transferred their pre-dreadnoughts south from the Grand Fleet to the Harwich Force (before they were destroyed, that is), as they were part of the line at Great Fisher Bank a long time ago. I think this and all other transfers are scripted, although I haven't really looked into it.
This fits well with my situation, for the whole fleet is ready and well trained, and I just about have enough OPs to send it out if I leave behind the pre-dreadnoughts. They may have crack gunners, but their lethargy and old fire-control systems are not too sorely missed. Maybe shaving their divisions off the battle-line will even improve mobility and cohesion.
One doctrinal question I’ve been mulling over is how best to use Rostock and Regensburg – is the destroyer leader role useful? They only have 4-inch guns, so it is probably better for them than having them tangle with enemy cruisers, but they are still valuable and quick units.
We sortie in the night and are in position at dawn.
However, it is November in the North Sea. Despite initial nice weather, the sea begins to be whipped up by a high wind, later accompanied by a shower.
The fleet stays on station through the night’s driving rain, still hoping to intercept the British, while a number of destroyers lose sight or fail to keep up with the fleet. After another day of searching, with no reports at all, we decide to turn home - a number of ships are taking weather damage. The wind has strengthened to a gale and I’d rather avoid any more wear and tear on the fleet than I have to. Zeppelins can't fly in these winds, while I expect our subs will dive deep to ride out the storm, meaning there's no point in staying out.
In the end, another waste of OPs but at least it was a well reasoned one again. With longer nights and worse weather expected as the winter worsens, I expect to make fewer sorties until the spring of 1917 comes around.
Post by georgeles on Sept 29, 2021 19:33:25 GMT -5
One doctrinal question I’ve been mulling over is how best to use Rostock and Regensburg – is the destroyer leader role useful? ___________
IMO, that's an omission in the game. So far as I can make out, Leaders do nothing. Of course, you can add more CLs to the division, making another CL Sq if you have many.
I would suggest, if they ever redo it, that there is a function, particularly in R Adm mode, that might work. They would extend the flagship's range of control, so all DD units in command range of EITHER the flagship, or their DL div, can be given orders.
Whether this would work better for the RN or the KM, I'm not sure. There is only one per force for the KM, whereas the RN had several. That's a Brit advantage. However, what I have in mind would entail the RN leaders would have the effect only on their subordinate flotillas, not on others. And of course some RN Flots had no CL as a leader. So, overall, I think it'd be a small plus for the Germans. (BTW, it would have an effect in Captain mode, too, just much weaker.)
The game also has no effect at all of actual DLs in a flotilla. IMO, that means that it's telling you to use them as the Germans did, united in a few killer divisions, not as the RN did, spreading them out. In the historical OB the RN gets this only for the VWs, late.
The the refit rate is ramping up as December approaches. Along with all their cover sheets on my desk, there is a fresh intel report.
Again! This time I’m much less prepared, and I imagine the enemy are sending out something big, since last week no heavies were detected at all. I only have enough OPs to send out the battlecruisers, whereas I suspect the enemy have quite the OP surplus. To add to my troubles, High Command want a raid on Hartlepool, no buts.
All these factors have conspired to make me to take a serious risk in sending the First Scouting Group out alone, knowing full well that the Brits may have their full might already at sea. Hartlepool is only half as far from Scapa as the usual East Anglian targets are, but twice as far from Wilhelmshaven. If we bump into something, what motley HSF reinforcements we could muster likely wouldn't make it on time. It's not all doom and gloom for Hipper though - the nights are long and I've assigned a hefty destroyer escort.
The plan is to pre-empt the enemy sortie, and try and work out it's composition and target on the fly. I'd like to avoid it and strike at Hartlepool first, as it might divert their attention as a kind of spoiling attack.
Hindenburg leads the seven battlecruisers out of port. They do not intercept anything in transit to the jumping-off point near Hartlepool, so they wait to strike in the night as planned. On the way in, one of our screening destroyers is mined, so we hurriedly change course to try and avoid more losses to the uncharted field. A patrolling destroyer, alarmed by the mine’s explosion, comes to investigate before turning tail in the face of our gunfire.
Now to get out of here.
The local guns are silenced, and we make our escape as a number of destroyers are swatted aside. Surprisingly there are no reports of enemy movements the next day, so we turn for home. Unfortunately this takes us right across another enemy minefield, which drags two more destroyers beneath the heaving seas.
Intelligence later reports an enemy force docking at Harwich - that minefield may well have been fresh. With the attrition I have suffered, this round goes to the British.
More of the new A-boats are coming through, but the old ones are not yet due for withdrawal, meaning the bases of Oostende and Zeebrugge will be over-capacity for a few weeks.
Meanwhile, I have to conclude that one of our spies now has a senior position in the British Admiralty. Again we have forewarning of an enemy operation in the works! Once again I will pre-empt it and sail ahead.
Speaking of the Admiralty, our spies also inform us that the RN have sent a significant detachment down to Hartlepool to review and beef up the recently shelled defences there - engineers, surveyors, clerks, builders, welders, bricklayers, and most importantly some top Army and Navy personnel. I have been ordered to spoil their day. These orders give me some direction if I cannot find out what the Brits are up to, but I'm in a similar position to last time, with too few OPs for a full-blooded sortie. I’ve always got to keep in mind my battlecruisers’ inferiority to the British ones (in terms of speed and gun calibre, if not yet protection) as they go it alone once again.
This plan got a good laugh from the Kaiser when I requested the use of his ships, although I did not hide my uneasiness at repeating the same risky operation twice in a row. "Relax!" He replied to me, "It will catch the watchful Tommies totally off guard! Doing precisely what we’ve done before is exactly the last thing they’d expect us to do this time!"
Our sortie ventures into the centre of the North Sea. As darkness approaches, we turn westwards to begin the approach to Hartlepool, while avoiding the possibility of being spotted from the air. The long nights should give us ample time to get in and out, I reckon - but this thought is cut short by alarm bells ringing. Warships, dead ahead!
The first night action
In the dark their course cannot be made out. Our line slews hard to port, spinning turbines up to full revolutions as turrets whirr to bear onto the black, murky silhouettes. It appears we have matched course with the adversaries. They shoot first, the opening volley clipping the funnel of Seydlitz. The still night explodes into fiery fury, with each vessel to fire a salvo receiving another in turn, her position telegraphed by the new flashes. The spread and size of shot tell us we are up against armoured cruisers.
They turn towards us, and we give them shells and torpedoes for the trouble.
A great many hits are scored, but I don't want to stay in this knife fight for too long. Von der Tann is holed beneath the waterline as we turn north for another attack.
As we complete the turn, a much greater comes into view. Now I understand why the cruisers went this way - to retreat to the cover of dreadnoughts. The Grand Fleet is at sea!
My second torpedo attack, aimed at the withdrawing cruisers, works just as well against the battleship row.
I decide to quit while I'm ahead, turning away to the east at speed. A few of my destroyers are badly damaged by main-calibre shells, and most have expended their torpedoes anyway. Whether to press on with the raid is now seriously in doubt. In any case, the HSF are activated. Crews are awoken from their bunks and made to hurry to the ships.
By the time I AG have successfully disengaged, the might of our fleet has made it out of port in good order, despite the ungodly hour - ersatz coffee doesn't quite have the same punch as the real thing, leaving many a crewmate still yawning and bleary-eyed.
On our way!
A heavy rain picks up. We press on. I have to assume that they know roughly where our battlecruisers are, and may find them in the morning, so we must link up with them to assist. In the meantime they are vectored east towards Jutland in the hope they can open some distance from the Grand Fleet, which was on a south-south-west course when contact was broken off.
A few hours later, on the way to the planned rendezvous off Jutland, Stettin, the scout posted off Bayern's starboard bow, passes astern of a mysterious dark shape. Unresponsive to the signal lamp, it disappears into a curtain of rainfall as quickly as it appeared. The cruiser takes the decision to break radio silence, hurriedly transmitting over the wireless:
" Warning! Warning! Strange ship coming from south east! "
Bayern orders all destroyers to starboard in anticipation of the lone intruder. They weave through the wakes of the big ships to switch sides.
The strange ship is sighted - but she is leading a line, which crashes into ours.
The second night action
The first two divisions hold steady as their destroyers get stuck in, but the British thrust forces the third to move aside, as Kaiser is made to break formation. With our line divided, there is total confusion. There are torpedoes and shell splashes, blinding searchlights, smashed glass, scorching flames, spray, screams, smoke, and a total loss of cohesion. Some ships hold fire, some shoot first and ask questions later. A battleship lumbers into a destroyer, ploughing her under the waves with all hands.
Two dreadnoughts come alongside each other in the melee. Casemated guns fire as quickly as they can, while machine guns rake the decks of both warships, gunning down men fleeing their charred turrets.
Friedrich der Grosse is torpedoed, as is Helgoland. The pre-dreadnoughts score some hits on an Iron Duke class.
Chaos in the van, chaos in the centre, chaos in the rear. The flagship has no clue what will come out of the rolling thunder she can hear.
Somehow the line manages to double back and get moving west. Oldenburg is torpedoed as more enemies, a row of cruisers, blunder into my line. Pommern despatches one of them as it turns circle after circle, its rudder jammed or shot away.
Artist's rendition of the scene.*
Further down the line, the isolated Rheinland and Westfalen meet the head of yet another line of battleships, which turns away after doling out some punishment.
This is the last act. The battle ends as quickly as it started, with us unable and unwilling to relocate the enemy. Several ships are battered and leaking, so we head home as the sun rises, battlecruisers and all.
The crews go back to bed, while captains and commanders submit their reports to the top brass, who try to piece together just what happened overnight. We claim around six big ships sunk or at least badly mauled, for the loss of a whole half-flotilla of destroyers. The weather certainly played its part in sending ships to the bottom, making flooding very difficult to contain.
Reconstructed map of the second action.
Profiles of two of the ships claimed sunk.
Overall, a pair of confused night actions that have gone the way of the Germans. Torpedoes were the main killer, showing that if big ships rule the waves, small ships rule the night.
* By Willie Stower, depicting the destruction of cruiser Black Prince
It is nearly the third Christmas of the war. There is no end in sight.
A number of ships are back in the yards for repairs, most prominently those that were struck by torpedoes and which will need months rather than weeks in the yard: Oldenburg and Friedrich der Grosse. It'll be tough work for the dock crews in the biting cold, huddling around braziers on their breaks, but it must be done. I've arranged for the ships' big canvas roofs, used during peacetime, to be strung up between the hull and the side of the graving dock to provide some shelter.
I plan to use the expected winter lull to create a thicket of minefields, starting with the usual position off Texel and running clockwise. With a few further out to sea, these should shore up my defences.
The first of many.
S55 struck a mine on the way back but her well-drilled crew managed to contain the flooding and limp the boat back to Emden.