Saturday, 15 August 2015

East of Malta, West of Suez.....Game Number 51

East of Malta, West of Suez....

Prior to the landings at Gallipoli Turkish spies had been able to uncover details of the naval forces assigned to the expedition. Whilst the Turkish navy would not be able to seriously challenge the Allies forces they could operate successfully against isolated portions or even the convoy routes expected to be used. They would need to move quickly though and so the Yavuz Sultan Selim (ex Goeben) and her escort, the Midilli (ex Breslau) were secretly dispatched to attack the convoy routes in the expectation of disrupting the planned invasion. Speed was to be of the essence as if the Allies knew that the Yavuz had put to sea and was loose in the Aegean it would take a concerted effort to hunt her down. Similarly the Turks and their German allies were well aware that they would have a thin time of it should the allies catch them with overwhelming force on the high seas.

The Game

The following action was fought using a WW1 naval variant of the popular One Hour Wargames book by Neil Thomas. The variant was devised by Martin Rapier and John Armatys and was based on a WW2 version available in the files section of the AMW Yahoo group by richinq. The rules have been used to fight a 'bath tub' version of Jutland and I believe that Martin has a report on his blog, as does Tim Gow. They have also been used at the annual Conference of Wargamers (COW) back in July and were, by all accounts, great fun to game with. The action I fought used 1/2400th scale models on a standard OHW battlefield of 3ft by 3ft.

Note that there is not a hexagon in sight....;-)

The Forces

The Ottoman Turks

Yavuz Sultan Selim (ex Goeben), BC
Midilli (ex Breslau), LC

The Royal Australian Navy

H.M.A.S Australia, BC
H.M.A.S. Melbourne, LC

 Somewhere in the Aegean: Spring 1915....


The Turkish ships approach from the north east (top left) whilst the Australians appear from the south west and are now heading east.

With the Midilli leading the mighty Yavuz Sultan Selim at some 25 knots in a south westerly direction the Ottoman commander - Kerim Keyk- had little to fear from enemy submarines known to be active in the area they were traversing. The expectation was that they would be on station within the next day or so and could then settle into the routine of patrol. It would only be a matter of time before a convoy loomed over the horizon and the full weight of the 11" guns of the flagship could be brought to bear on the enemies of the Porte. The commander relaxed slightly as the most difficult part of the operation - the breakout from the straits - had gone without a hitch although the coal consumption was higher than he would have liked. His mission though was a simple one. Intercept and destroy a convoy and then had back at best speed. Aside from light forces the only ships in the area that could damage him were too slow to catch him so he was not unduly concerned about potential opposition. His mission would be a success and so when the signal came in from the Midilli that smoke was ahead - he quickly reasoned that it could only be from enemy vessels - it was with a grim resolve to do his duty that he called the ship to action stations.

Heading in largely the opposing direction and at a similar speed were two ships of the Royal Australian Navy; H.M.A.S Australia and H.M.A.S. Melbourne. They were in the area solely due to having been transferred from the Pacific in order to join up with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. They had been told to watch for possible submarine activity but also that any encounters with the Ottoman navy were very unlikely. In fact, it was more likely they would run into ships of the Austrian fleet rather than anything else. Even so, the Australian commander - Rear Admiral Thomas O'Malley - was taking no chances with his charges and so insisted on operating at action stations whenever possible. His foresight proved well founded as the signal came in from the Melbourne that there was smoke was on the horizon off the port bow.

Both sides quickly worked up to maximum speed but the Ottoman commander changed course to a heading of due west in order to identify the oncoming ships. He wanted to ensure that he would have the maximum number of guns available when, as was likely, he would be opening fire. The Turkish formation remained the same as suddenly the opposing smoke clouds seemed to split into two - one, the heavier of the two, continued on its existing course whilst the other swung away to the west, almost as if it was heading to intercept him. Kerim Keyk had no intention of splitting his force and so held on to his existing course to assist the Midilli if needed.


The two Turkish ships have changed course to  'open their arcs' whilst the Australians have opted to investigate from both sides of the enemy formation.

Captain O'Malley saw his escorting cruiser head off in a northwesterly direction whilst keeping a close eye on what appeared to be the larger of the two vessels heading west. He was in two minds as to whether or not he should emulate his mysterious counterpart and replicate his supporting move as if the the two ships proved to be hostile the Melbourne would be in serious trouble. He reasoned that he would have a another five minutes or so in order to decide and had made his decision to do just that when the explosive crack and dull rumble of distant gunfire shattered his reverie.

Almost immediately an urgent signal came in from the Melbourne to say that the lead ship was a light cruiser flying the Turkish flag and that she was engaging her. O'Malley quickly grasped the significance of this - the light cruiser could only be the Breslau which meant that the large ship following her (and which his own ship was rapidly closing on her rear port quarter) had to be the Goeben. Without a moment to lose he ordered the Australia to swing around to the north west in order to engage the Goeben and to support the Melbourne.

Meanwhile, aboard H.M.A.S Melbourne, her commander had quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valour as whilst he was confident he could tackle the oncoming Turkish cruiser he was less optimistic about his chances against what could only be the ponderous bulk of a German built battle cruiser bearing down on him. He could make out the distant shape of the Australia on the horizon and coming up on the rear of the enemy battle cruiser. Without hesitation he swung his ship around to cross between both of the enemy warships in order to engage both the cruisers in passing, thereby giving the Australia time to come up and engage the heavier of the two ships at a tactical advantage. He gambled on the fact that the enemy battle cruiser would be too concerned about the oncoming capital ship to worry about a lowly light cruiser. Once he had crossed the enemy front he would then be able to rejoin the Australia so both ships would be between each of the Turkish vessels.

It was a sound plan and so the signal was sent to the Australia. It was seconds too late.

The Midilli opened fire on the Melbourne from one flank whilst the Yavuz, ignoring the impending threat off her aft port quarter of the fast approaching Australia, opened fire with her main artillery. The gallant Melbourne was surrounded by great mast high gouts of water as both the Yavuz and the Midilli quickly found the range and battered her unmercifully. The 4.1" shells of the Midilli were but small beer compared to the great 11" guns of the Yavuz and the Melbourne was quickly in trouble with guns disabled and her steaming ability impaired. Still she kept on but her own fire had scant effect on her enemies.


Battle is joined! The Midilli has taken damage from the Melbourne whilst she in turn has been subjecting to a battering from both the Midilli and the Yavuz Sultan Selim. Meanwhile, the Australia continues to play the stalking tiger to the rear of the Turkish battle cruiser.

At last the Australia was in range and, with not a moment to lose, she proceeded to engage the Yavuz. Captain O'Malley, mindful of the damage the Melbourne was taking, fired at the enemy battle cruiser at the maximum rate his guns could be loaded and trained and was quickly rewarded with the gratifying sight of the dull orange glow and black, smoke-laden cloud of a hit or even hits.

Aboard the Yavuz Kerim Keyk listened to the damage reports with a mixture of relief that it had not been worse and apprehension as to how he would now be able to fulfil his mission. Clearly after having been engaged by enemy warships he would need to fight his way clear and head for home - any thoughts of tackling an enemy convoy were now largely redundant - as his mission had been compromised. His ship, although suffering minor damage had her steaming and fighting abilities unimpaired. Considering his options he decided to head for the south and then to swing back around to set a course for home. The Midilli would fall in behind and the enemy would not be able to catch them. He was sure that his assailant would follow him around so he needed to give him a good reason to slow down. The reason would be having to stop to pick up survivors from the light cruiser they had recently engaged.

With this new plan fixed in his mind Keyk gave the appropriate orders as the huge bulk of his ship heeled into a sharp turn to port. Meanwhile, the gunners made ready to finish the gallant Melbourne.

With a dogged tenacity the Australia clung to the stern quarter of the Yavuz as she completed her turn. In doing so she managed to draw the fire from the enemy battle cruiser, thereby alleviating the punishment the Melbourne was receiving, albeit it momentarily. The 11" shells of the enemy rained down on the Australia and shook the ship from stem to stern. From the bridge of the Yavuz all that could be seen were great clouds of smoke and steam and flashes of orange and red. Surely she must be out of the fight? The deafening roar and bone-shuddering clang of a heavy shell hit soon dismissed that notion from the mind of the Ottoman commander as the damage continued to mount. The Yavuz had lost some speed and the aft turrets were out of action - the roof of the main deck aft turret was peeled back like a sardine tin with great gouts of smoke gushing from within and the two gun barrels at drunken and impossible angles. Kerim Keyk new that it was time to get away and so he called for maximum speed and attempted to get the battered Yavuz away.

The Yavuz attempts to get away from the Australia whilst the Melbourne is heading into some serious trouble.

As the Turkish ship swung away from her relentless assailant the burning and battered but unbowed Melbourne once again loomed into view. No sooner than she appeared so the remaining great guns open fire at the plucky cruiser. Almost immediately the Melbourne was struck by the great shells of the Turkish ship and her once proud lines were reduced to resembling a blazing and smouldering scrap yard. Yet still she limped on.

After her initial brush with the Melbourne the Midilli had come about to follow her and was surprised to see two things. Firstly, the huge bulk of the Yavuz, obviously heavily damaged judging by the amount of smoke and the list she was carrying, was thundering towards her with what looked like an enemy ship of equal size pursuing her. She had been unable to reach the Yavuz (the commander of the Midilli was unaware that the wireless on the Yavuz had been destroyed) but second guessed the intentions of her commander and so made ready to come about and fall in in her wake.

Whilst the various commanders made their decisions the climax of the action was nearing.

As the Yavuz completed her turn to the south she fired a final salvo at the Melbourne. Once again the Turkish gunnery was excellent and the Melbourne, although still afloat, was battered to the point of sinking. Still she kept firing at the Midilli (her gunnery was badly affected by her opening damage and she only hit the Midilli once in the entire action) and was gamely trying to limp away from her tormentors when disaster struck. At maximum range a salvo of 4.1" shells pierced the engine room, severing steam lines and wrecking the boilers. This also impacted on the pumps which had, up until that point, been keeping pace with the amount of water flowing in through the riven hull. It was too much for the gallant ship to take and so, as the way fell off her she began to settle by the bows, her fight was over.

The end of the Melbourne. With further damage inflicted by the Yavuz as she attempted to get away from the Australia it was left to the Midilli to administer the coup de grace - which she duly obliged.

Captain O'Malley stared aghast at the smouldering and sinking wreck of the Melbourne as the Australia sped by. Should he stop for survivors or should he first try to finish the Goeben? He was sure she had been sorely hit and it was he duty to try and sink her. The sea was calm so he resolved to engage the Goeben first and then return to pick up survivors. 

Aboard the Yavuz the celebrations at the destruction of the enemy light cruiser were short-lived. Kerim Keyk had gambled that his counterpart would stop to rescue survivors, thereby allowing the Yavuz to make her escape but instead the enemy ship showed no sign of breaking off the action. 

The Yavuz was heavily damaged and could not hope to outrun her opponent so the only thing she could do was to try and outfight her. Like a punch-drunk heavyweight the great ship swung slowly around to give herself a better broadside against her oncoming assailant. Her guns spoke and her crew were rewarded with seeing great towers of water and black smoke surrounding her enemy. Once again the ragged cheering of the ship's company momentarily lightened the mood but it was to be an empty gesture as the heavy shells of the Australia rained down on the stricken Yavuz. With smoke and flames, secondary explosions; the screams of the dead and the dying ringing his ears Kerin Keyk gave the only order he could - the order that was the most painful any captain of a ship could give: the order to abandon ship.

The final reckoning. As the Yavuz attempts to limp away from the Australia she finally succumbs to her damage but not without getting in some telling blows on her assailant. The Midilli steams towards her stricken flagship to pick up survivors. The Turkish mission has failed and the spine of her navy broken.

Captain O'Malley saw the end of the Goeben with a huge sense of relief for his own losses and the damage to his ship was extensive. He was about to give the order to pick up survivors when he saw the other enemy cruiser in the distance, obviously with the same idea. He had enough of the fight for one day and besides, he had the crew of the Melbourne to consider. Seeing that the enemy appeared to be taking care of their own wounded he decided to do the same and so ordered the Australia to come about and to head for the last resting place of the gallant Melbourne. 

Afterthoughts

The scenario was essentially that old naval standby of the infamous encounter battle - although I hope that the back story added a little flavour to the proceedings! The rules worked very well although I already have in mind a number of 'tweaks' that will add to the experience and these will feature in a later post. At the conclusion of this brisk little action the Midilli had sustained 4 points of damage whilst the Australia had taken 9. This meant that the latter ship was carrying a yellow damage marker indicating penalties to both her firing dice and speed. Each ship takes 15 points of damage with a yellow marker at five points and a red one - with greater penalties to both firing and speed - at 10. 

Tactically the Australians had gambled by splitting their forces in the face of the enemy but they managed to get away with it simply because the Yavuz had ignored the Australia whilst concentrating on the hapless Melbourne. In game turns the Australia had an unanswered turn of firing at her opposite number meaning she was able to get her blows in first - which proved to be decisive in the long run. Well might Kerim Keyk rue his decision (he was picked up with the other survivors by the Midilli) to concentrate on the Melbourne but the margin between success and failure or even victory and defeat is often a narrow one.

It was good to be able to fight a game after what seems like an age and the whole 'One Hour Wargame' phenomena certainly appeals to me at present so you can be sure I will be exploring the concept further in due course. 

Did I mention that there was not a hexagon in sight?



 






Monday, 10 August 2015

Gunga Din and films I have NOT seen

Image result for gunga din film

They don't make them like that anymore....




I am currently watching the 1930s version of Gunga Din courtesy of BBC IPlayer on my IPad during the commute to and from work. I am really enjoying it but it did make me wonder about those seminal war films I have not seen rather than those that I have. So, by way of a bit of fun I am listing the top five films I have not seen that are, for want of a better expression, 'mainstream' war films. Readers of the blog may, if they are interested in this particular piece of whimsy, comment with there own favourites. The only caveat is that they should have been released prior to the year 2000.


The five films I have not seen and that are on my to do list are as follows:


1. 55 Days in Peking
2. Khartoum
3. The Sand Pebbles
4. Robin and Marion
5. The Heroes of Telemark


And for the more poetically inclined amongst you I would like to share the following:

Gunga Din

By Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936 Rudyard Kipling
You may talk o’ gin and beer   
When you’re quartered safe out ’ere,   
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter   
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.   
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,   
Where I used to spend my time   
A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen,   
Of all them blackfaced crew   
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din,   
      He was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
      ‘Hi! Slippy hitherao
      ‘Water, get it! Panee lao,
   ‘You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’

The uniform ’e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ’arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag   
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ’e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ’eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted ‘Harry By!’
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ’im ’cause ’e couldn’t serve us all.
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!
   ‘You ’eathen, where the mischief ’ave you been?   
      ‘You put some juldee in it
      ‘Or I’ll marrow you this minute
   ‘If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!’

’E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ’e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
’E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.   
With ’is mussick on ’is back,
’E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made 'Retire,’   
An’ for all ’is dirty ’ide
’E was white, clear white, inside
When ’e went to tend the wounded under fire!   
      It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’
   With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.   
      When the cartridges ran out,
      You could hear the front-ranks shout,   
   ‘Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!’

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.   
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.   
’E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
      It was 'Din! Din! Din!
   ‘’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen;   
   ‘’E's chawin’ up the ground,
      ‘An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around:
   ‘For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’

’E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.   
’E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ’e died,
'I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din.   
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.   
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!   
      Yes, Din! Din! Din!
   You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!   
   Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,   
      By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
   You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!


Thursday, 30 July 2015

One Hour Wargames

  
                                       

                                               A One Hour Wargame? Certainly works for me!

I finally got around to acquiring a copy of the above - and I am very pleased I did! I am not going to repeat the umpteen reviews that have featured across the blogosphere - instead I will limit myself to my own observations. I am very excited about the potential of this book as I believe that in making the rules as simple as he has done so the author has suceeded in furnishing a really good framework to build in additional features. I have no problem with the concept of small armies fighting on a small playing area and taking modest amounts of time to do so. All of this works really well for me and my wargaming circumstances in many ways - cost, time to acquire the forces and paint them, available time etc. The mechanics are simple and the accompanying designers notes are quite logical in the context of what he has set out to achieve. At this stage the only obvious thing I can think to apply is to expand the number of troop types per period from 4 to 6 as this would allow a more rounded coverage for a given period. Of course these would the need to be factored in to the rules but such is the simplicity of the basic engine that this should not be a problem.

The one thing that struck me though was that I have not even thought about hexes....;-)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Young Winston and the NW Frontier

                                        

                  Young Winston - and with no sign of a broom handled Mauser (that came later!)

I picked up a copy of the above at the Lakeside branch of the Works in hardback for a mere £3 - and what an engrossing read it has been! The story of the Malakand Field Force is of course well known but alot of the background around Churchill's early life was unknown to me - and I have not seen the film Young Winston either! The thing that struck me with this book - enhanced by the authors continued parallels with the current situation in this part of world - is how often history has to relearned in order to go forward - and in the case where the military had become involved how many young men pay the ultimate price.

The author uses much of the material available from the Churchill archive and his modern day parallels seem to be almost uncomfortably (some could say uncannily so) close to the truth. The weapons and technology may change but as the tribal warriors of the hills observe: "You have all the watches but we have all the time."

A couple of points struck me after having read this. I did not realise that Churchill was quite so financially strapped at the time (his writing proved to be quite lucrative) and also just how keen he was on self promortion. He was certainly very brave and saw this as being the foundation of his ultimate career in politics. The other point the author made which struck me concerned of all things drone strikes. Are these a more cost effective way of the carrying out the time honoured 'punitive expedition' to teach the natives a lesson? One has to wonder.

I really enjoyed this book and it has served to reminf me of the adventures in the Roghan Valley I have often mentioned on the blog in the past. Perhaps I need to revisit these....;-)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Mimi and Toutou have arrived....

At last my order from Tumbling Dice has arrived! If you recall I has placed an order for the entire range available for the Lake Tanganyika campaign - 6 models in all although I received two packs each of Mimi and Toutou making four models in all for this type. I will query this with Paul at Tumbling Dice as I think that the catalogue listing may be incorrect as it does not mention they are priced at £2 for two - I ordered two packs thinking it was one model in each. A minor point though, and not one to raise the blood pressure.

I have had a preliminary look at the models and they look very nice indeed and are multi-part affairs. How they compare to the offerings from, I believe, North Park Miniatures in New Zealand I cannot say but they certainly seem to be very detailed. I will have a closer inspection this evening and will try and get some pictures as well.

All the vessels have seperate guns and masts where applicable and the large Graf von Gotzen has a resin hull with the deck fittings being cast in metal. My first thought when I saw this was that it seems expensive for what it is - £12 - and on closer inspection I noted that the underside of the hull has around 1mm of excess resin, thereby raising the overall height of the hull. This would not be a problem if one used testured bases as this would be covered and would look fine as the 'water' would then be at the right level for the hull. I do not texture my naval bases though so I will have to smooth this away. It may be a design feature but if it is then it not really to my taste.

I am really looking forward to tackling these models and hope to do so at the weekend - it will be good to get some filing, gluing and painting underway again.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Messing about on the Tigris and the Euphrates


                                     

"Too much water for the army and not enough for the navy"


I am currently reading my way through the above title and it is an absolute belter! The Imperial foces tasked with securing the oilfields and pipeline initially made use of some converted steamers and sundry other river craft as well as some seagoing Victorian era gunboats to support the land forces. The vessels saw much action - not only chasing the Turks but also against the various tribes of marsh Arabs. These locals could be either supporting the Turks or the Imperial forces (occasionally both!) so one was never quite sure whom they would turning out for. Purpose built small China gunboats were eventually sent out and assembled on site but the forces available from the outset saw much action in support of the land forces as well as engaging Turkish naval forces in the area. The main RN presence at the outset were a number of Cadmus class sloops  - HMS Espiegle, Clio and Odin - and I was delighted to find out that they were all built in my home town of Sheerness.
 

As an aside the Turkish cavalry in the area was very active and quite successful being used against Imperial supply lines. The Turks usually fought well when attacked frontally but the gunboats were able to use the river to engage the flanks and so often were able to dislodge the defenders under a hail of 4", 12 ponder or machine gun fire. The Turks tended to use patrol boats mounting pom pom guns (typically old Nordenfelts) so the potential for some interesting actions - either combined arms types or pure 'naval' affairs is very high. The main Turkish gunboats were only armed with 9 pdrs which were insufficient against the 4" weapons of the RN sloops and later gunboats (especially the 6" armed Insect class).I have Dave Manley's excellent Steamer Wars rules to use for this and the River Wars supplement covers the use of land forces.

The Turks were outgunned on the waterways but made up for this with extensive use of blockships, floating mines and artillery covering key points. They also regularly peppered the Imperial vessels with rifle and machine gun fire.


All I need are some models so I am thinking that I shall be busy scratcbuilding!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Portable Block Wargame....Part 2

In my last post I touched on the question of terrain for use with my Heroscape set up. I mentioned that one of things I wanted to avoid was using terrain items that had too large a 'footprint'. Much of my existing terrain is ideally suited for use with Hexon and the associated model footprint does not present too much of a problem when using units of four, three or two blocks. This is part due to the size of the models in use and the fact that he Hexon tiles are some four inches (100mm) across the flat edges. Sadly the Heroscape version is less than half of this at around 45mm. It is a problem to be sure as the blocks I shall be using occupy a large chunk of the available space within a Heroscape tile. Since I am not going to replace my block collection anytime soon with a smaller version the need for some terrain has become a pressing one.

I have an idea although it is by no means an original one. I am planning on experimenting with 2D models - essentially 'flats' but configured in such a way that the look is very much 3D. Simply by using an 'L' shaped or, more likely a three sided base with representations of the terrain to be depicted configured along both angles I am hoping to solve both the practical and the aesthetic consideration. At this stage my thoughts are limited to buildings and built up areas and woods but there is no reason why the technique could not be applied to other things.

As I shall have some spare time this weekend I will also make a point of trying out some terrain ideas and see how they work out - with of course the results being posted on the blog.