Monday, 27 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Straits as we took it to the show (Battleground 2017 - Part 2)

The early ranging shots and salvos of both sides were traded with limited damage (apart from HMS Hood's opening salvo) to the point where HMS Hood historically had made it past her second 20 degree turn. Importantly this meant that the full broadsides can bear for both British battleships, as X and Y turrets cleared their arcs of fire. At this point HMS Hood had survived for longer than the historical counterpart (see below, RN bottom KM in the distant, with the little hands of Admiral  "Lutjens" [KM Admiral "A"] just visible):

Turn four saw a really effective exchange of heavy fire with HMS Hood having many visible (in the sense of shell bursts on her or in her) "battle scars" but these were mainly of the non-penetrating nature or penetrating but superficial (in GQII you can do the hard part of hitting but still do no damage). "Lady Luck" was holding out and smiling today for the Mighty Hood! Straddled by the KM Bismark she was in 'harm's way' but had escaped with just a slight reduction in speed to 9cm but still firing with all her main armaments (see below, HMS Prince of Wales sails on unmolested in the Hood's wake in the background):

By way of contrast the KM Bismarck bears the full force of 18 RN naval barrels (8 x 15" from HMS Hood and 10 x 14" [which if looked at closely had the better penetration power] from HMS Prince of Wales). The KM Prince Eugen by this time had suffered by too much attention from HMS Hood. Initially slowed to 6cm, she was then again hit and slowed to a creeping 3cm. Her main armament was also savaged and reduced to half. At the start of play KM Price Eugen would be hard pressed to hurt a battleship, now it was a sliding mathematical scale towards the impossible. Her torpedoes were now her only real threat and there was no way she could get in range to use them. After a few distracting shots to HMS Prince of Wales she tried to retire under smoke away from the 'battleship only' arena. Unfortunately HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk were well placed to make that escape infeasible (see below):

The meat grinder phase of the battle showed that the ratio of 2:1 in RN firepower (when exotic statistical outlier results do not creep in) are brutally unforgiving. There was a steady attrition of straddling and hit (after hit) accumulation began to take its toll on the KM Bismarck's statistics. Before long her batteries were falling silent one by one and her speed slowing down (see below):

There was a brief phase when both sides seemed to throw bad dice but then at the end there was a maelstrom of violence directed at the KM Bismarck. In the exchange HMS Hood had lost half her armament and survived an interesting critical hit but the KM Bismarck was left travelling at 3cm with a lonely solo turret firing. Her end was in clearly sight (see below, "the flashes" indicated critical hits which resulted in extra hull and armament boxes being lost):

In the end it was the HMS Prince of Wales (even with an extra dice roll to see if all her guns worked) that provided the "coup de grace" with a final massive hull critical which that wiped out the KM Bismarck's flotation and then some. The battle ended how the RN Admiralty had intended the historical version to end. No German 'swan-song' on this occasion. Both player admirals shook hands at the end and departed still "best of friends"! It was a good participation/demonstration game, plenty of spectator comment and nice to see the scenario played through to the end.

Second re-fight (without pictures): As the traders were starting the long process of packing up, myself (Admiral "M" RN) and one of the other game organisers (Admiral "I" KM) decided to do another quick replay, not as tied to the historical event, with more latitude of action shall we say. Here HMS Hood decided to concentrate on hitting and dispatching the KM Prince Eugen who seemed to be intent to close to torpedo distance. This meant taking several hits from the KM Bismarck, leaving HMS Prince of Wales to fight her battle for her. HMS Hood was thus reduced to 6cm but thankfully nothing worse. HMS Prince of Wales sadly did not even scratch the paintwork on the KM Bismarck. Admiral "I" KM was happy to play a long distant gunnery duel game with the British battleships. The speed advantage was in his favour (HMS Prince of Wales 11cm and HMS Hood 6cm to KM Bismarck's 12cm). As the range lengthened Admiral "M" RN (me) deemed it prudent to disengage and resume shadowing with the cruisers (HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk) and regain contact with her "lost or misplaced" RN destroyer screen (the four escorting destroyers that could not keep pace with the battleships in the bad weather). This would also give the British time to organise a Swordfish torpedo attack from HMS Victorious (as historically happened) and allow perhaps a damaged KM Bismarck to be re-engaged by the combined force of one battleship (HMS Prince of Wales), two cruisers (HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk) and three destroyers (assuming that one is left to escort the damaged HMS Hood). In addition there were the additional heavy units of the Home Fleet (HMS King George V and HMS Repulse with Tovey) closing in "with all haste" or even those heavier ships still on convoy escort duty (the battleships HMS Rodney, HMS Ramillies and HMS Revenge, plus the cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Edinburgh) that could come into play. Force H from Gibraltar may or may not be needed (probably used as insurance a policy). If not they may have been on hand strategically to help out (or be sunk) in the Mediterranean, as the invasion of Greece and Crete was in full swing at this point.

Wow. All good fun and a very, very enjoyable day out. In between battles I managed to pick up a few other bits and pieces, but more of them later. Also a huge thank you to Renko for kindly lending me the dark blue North Atlantic playing surface and those very useful plastic hit (orange 3D explosion) and critical (red exploding star) markers. The very effective looking smoke came from tumble-dryer belly button fluff! With three kids I seem to have an endless supply of the stuff ;)

Sitting back with a relaxing cup of "RN Cocoa" I was thinking on what the "lessons learned" were for the whole day/experience (but that is for another post).



CelticCurmudgeon said...

An outstanding AAR! Your explanation of what was happening made it almost seem like I was reading history - or watching "Sink the Bismarck." Well done, sir! well done.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Cheers CC:
Thank you for your kind comments

It was a real buzz and honour to do this game

There was a crowd of really interesting people to talk to and I learned a fair few new facts (to me at least) I hope to pass these on through this blog in later posts :)

The personal connections that some people had with HMS Hood from their family history were quite thought provoking and to be honest humbling. A wargamer on the table next to me (the Bolt Action Pegasus Bridge game) told me that he actually lost an uncle (who only 19 years of age) on HMS Hood that day.

What was a game to me was in fact and stil is a family tragedy to others. 1415 RN sailors were lost from HMS Hood that day. It stops you a bit in your tracks when you think that 1415 families were struck from that one catastrophic shell from the Bismarck.

Hopefully never again :(

Phil Broeders said...

Enjoyed the posts on this. Glad it all went well.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Cheers Phil :)

Ian Robinson said...

Message from Admiral I

A great day out, and a great write up, including the pictures.

The action of Prinz Eugen in the second match follows a tradition of the Kreigsmarine ('Ran an den Feind' Attack the enemy) as per the death ride of the battlecruisers at Jutland, where the weaker force self sacrifices to allow the stronger to escape.

As for the Bismarck, the fates will decide whether she makes it to France, hunts convoys in the Atlantic, or succumbs to the closing Royal Navy net.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Well said my noble adversary
The Admiralty will undoubtedly convene a Board of Inquiry to Admiral "M's" actions
How and why "The Mighty Hood" got so battered
Plenty to think about
Much to enjoy