Friday, 12 April 2013

The Battle of the Norwegian Bend, April 1941....Game Number 38

Somewhere off the coast of Northern Norway, at around 8,000 feet....


A photo reconaissance Spitfire

Thus far the flight had been mercifully uneventful. A quick transit over the North Sea and then a succession of visits to assorted Fjords in the hope of finding a large warship. Nothing. Not even any anti-aircraft fire for his troubles. The whole coastline seemed to be asleep. He was just entering the final Fjord of his journey when he noticed something. Below him was a very small fishing village with the usual array of small craft moored up safely in the harbour. He was just thinking how picturesque it looked when he saw a very large tanker berthed alongside the edge of the Fjord with what looked like a long and snake-like boom in the water. This had to be it, he thought. Why would a small fishing village need a tanker and a boom? His mind pondered this discovery. Refuelling a large ship - that had to be it! In any event he was getting close to the time he would need to return home and so he throttled back, banked and turned for a second look. There it was, a huge tanker that was riding high in the water, meaning only one thing - it was empty. He was convinced that he had found the lair of the beast and so headed out to the open sea at full throttle to report. With a sense of urgency he switched on his radio. "Rhubarb control this is Pot Roast 5, do you read me? Over".

R.A.F Glenfiddich, Northern Scotland....

The nasally clipped tones of the pilot of a lone reconnaissance Spitfire crackled into life in the radio room of the R.A.F. base. The air within was stale with sweat, cigarette smoke and the occasional waft of aviation exhaust fumes. Tension permeated the very fabric of the small wooden hut and assumed an almost physical form. It had been a long night and for little result. The duty officer switched on the mike. "Pot Roast 5, this is Rhubarb control, reading you loud and clear, over". The junior aircraft man made some fine adjustments on the bank of dials in front of him. The sound of static crackled on, the volume dwindling and increasing in response to the turn of the dials. "Rhubarb control, I arrived too late for the party and narrowly avoided taking part in the cleaning up"...."The cloud is low and so am I - I am returning home, over and out". The crackling stopped and silence once again reigned supreme. The duty officer sighed. He turned to his subordinate, his face a mask of stony resolve. "Get me the Admiralty and quickly, we have missed her in the bad weather so the ball is with them now!"

On the bridge of H.M.S. Renown, somewhere off Northern Norway....

Meanwhile, one hundred or so miles north of the where the Spitfire had passed, H.M.S. Renown continued with her patrol. Her captain was aware that the newest German battleship, Bismarck, had supposedly sortied and that it was his job to try and pin her down. He was not concerned about the finding of her but he was very concerned about becoming drawn into a fire fight against 15" shells with little more than light cruiser level armour for protection. As he scanned the horizon to the south through his binoculars he considered once again the dictum of Jackie Fisher about "Hitting first, hitting hard and keeping on hitting". He silently prayed to himself that should his path cross with the mighty Bismarck that his ship would be able to do just that. The alternative, being involved in long and drawn out gunnery duel, would leave only one winner and he doubted if it would be his ship.

On the bridge of K.M. Bismarck, somewhere off Northern Norway....

Her captain was troubled. So many things had been rushed concerning this operation. His ship was alone, without any escort, not even a cruiser. Her orders were contradictory - avoid action but engage with full power if needed - and even the mission itself was vague. Essentially he was to take the Bismarck around Iceland and home. This was purely for propaganda purposes, to demonstrate the impotence of the Royal Navy in the face of German naval might. As a student of military history he was reminded of Jeb Stuart's ride around the Union Army during the American Civil War. It made for great headlines but added little or nothing to the war effort. He was also reminded of how it ended for the Confederacy as well.

His ship was powerful one and he was confident it would give a good account of itself if it came to battle. The only problem was that he could ill afford a pyrrhic victory. By a strange coincidence he found his mind wandering back to what he had read about Jackie Fisher and something half remembered about  "Hitting first, hitting hard and keeping on hitting". If his officers and men were to ever see their homes again he would need to live up to that mantra.

The Norwegian Bend, 300 miles off Tromso in the Norwegian Sea....

H.M.S. Renown plunged on through the icy seas in a south westerly direction on the final leg of her sweep. Thus far she had come across nothing at all. Despite this her captain had the nagging feeling that he had overlooked something vital and so was about to order a minor change of course to double back when a shout from the radar room was heard.

"Contact heading North West!"

Everything seemed to happen at once as a flurry of bearings and speeds were urgently passed to the bridge. It was not one of theirs for certain and so could only be the missing German battleship.

"Sound Action Stations Number 1, ready all weapons and prepare to engage!" The Executive officer saluted crisply and barked out a succession of orders. H.M.S. Renown was going to war.

Dismay was the overriding emotion on the bridge of the Bismarck as she simultaneously discovered she was not alone. The enemy warship was not supposed to be there and was between her and home so would have to be engaged and dealt with, and quickly as well. Actions stations sounded and the great ship swung about to identify and engage her unexpected adversary. her captain pondered the identity of the enemy warship and hoped it would be an older ship rather than one of the new King George class battleships.

Almost simultaneously the two ships opened fire....

Germany



K.M. Bismarck in overall plain 1940 grey - one of the two sample 1/2400th scale models I received from Stonewall Figures. Not a bad casting and paints up very nicely indeed.

K.M. Bismarck - Battleship, Heavy Armour, Speed 4, Flotation points 45 (Critical 25 - this is high due to reluctance to sustain irreparable damage), 4 x Heavy Gun Dice, 6 x Light Gun Dice (3 on a broadside) and 8 x Light-1 Gun Dice (4 on a broadside).

Royal Navy



H.M.S. Renown - again in an early war overall grey scheme. This is not as 'crisp' a model as the Bismarck but still paints up very nicely and as a gaming piece is hard to beat at the price.

H.M.S. Renown - Battle Cruiser, Light Armour, Speed 4, Flotation points 30 (Critical 10), 3 x Heavy Gun Dice and 5 x Light Gun Dice (3 on a broadside).

The Battle of the Norwegian Bend, somewhere off Tromso in the Norwegian Sea....



The opening move sees the Renown speeding across to intercept the Bismarck who immediately turns in to face her enemy. The opening exchange of fire at maximum range was ineffective.



Whilst the Renown slows down with the intention of holding the inside of the Bismarck's turn once again the guns boom out - with devastating effect on the thinly armoured British ship.


Renown fights back and damages her assailant - but will it be enough?


Renown continues her turn but the Bismarck manages to cut across her bows and lets rip with another damaging salvo


Renown is real trouble now as her attempt to stay on the inside of the Bismarck's turn has left her stern on to the full weight of the enemy ship's broadside


Once again the Bismarck pounds the hapless battle cruiser as she speeds past her and away to safety. Renown has now suffered damage sufficient to take her within critical level and so she would be forced to break off the action.

The Captain of the Bismarck, despite the hammering administered to the hapless Renown, has no idea as to the whereabouts of the rest of the Royal Navy and so decides that heading home would be the most prudent course of action.

The from the wreckage of the bridge of the Renown with the smell of electrical fires and burnt cordite clinging thickly in the air, the Captain, with his hand in a bandage from a shrapnel wound, surveys the departing Bismarck with a mixture of pride and relief. Pride in the fact that his ship went head to head with a much more powerful opponent and stood up to a fearful pounding in the best traditions of the service and relief that at last it was over and that he could take his battered command to home and safety.

Bismarck had suffered very minor damage but more importantly, at least as far as her commander was concerned, was the fact that she had been spotted and so her mission was compromised. Of greater significance though was the question as to why on earth a commander of such an inferior ship would willingly engage such a superior opponent? Once again he secretly marvelled at the uncompromising attitude of his opponent and pondered a doom laden future against such an implacable enemy.

Aftermath

I used my version of the Portable Naval Wargame and it worked out pretty well. The Germans needed to brush the Renown aside and so with great aplomb. The Renown did all that could be expected of her but was badly let down by the shooting and her decision to try and turn inside the Bismarck. She was also very unlucky with her initiative rolls as she only won this on a single game turn. The German ship maintained full speed throughout and in retrospect perhaps Renown should have followed suit.

Renown was both brave and resolute and so the mighty Bismarck effectively blinked first.





14 comments:

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

David,

Wow! I would have expected the Bismark to make mincemeat of the Renown ... but pluck and guts prevailed over might and a desire for self-preservation ... just as it should.

A very exciting battle report, and I suspect that others like it will follow it.

All the best,

Bob

SteelonSand said...

Phew! That's a heady account of some dramatic action...... for some reason I can see Jack Hawkins at he smashed bridge of the Renown.......

As usual, a great AAR mixed with some nice literary intro, and some lovely models to boot! The Bismarck looks amazing in the guise of the new painting method.

David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Renown had taken a royal battering (21 damage points out of 30)but steadfastly maintained herself 'in harm's way'.

It was a short fight but great fun all the same and you are quite right - a whole ot more will follow!

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi SoS,

Many thanks old chap! It was huge fun to fight albeit pretty one sided although Renown could (and should) have done a lot better with her shooting!

The Bismarck painted up really well and with most WW2 ships having lots of 'sticking out bits' that catch the paint brush ery readily.

Jack Hawkins eh? That would have been something to see although my feeling is perhaps Noel Coward might have been better.

All the best,

DC

Peter Douglas said...

DC

I'll go one further than Bob - I thought you were a bit sadistic to put the Renown up against the Bismarck. But pluck certainly won out. Seems to me that the Scharnhorst sisters ran away from Renown off Norway.
Splice the main brace all around!

PD

David Crook said...

Hi Peter,

Sadly they are the only two models I currently own for WW2 in my new scale of choice. I hope to rectify this in due course!

Potentially, if Renown had scored some hits, Bismarck may have had more pause for thought but as it was the end justified the means as far as the Royal Navy were concerned.

It was great fun to try though and I will try it again at some point.

All the best,

DC

Sean said...

Wow, those ships look great. I like the tan decking. Good report too.

SAROE said...

Simply aghast that at no point was the order "Ramming Speed!" ever uttered. Appalling.

Kids these days have no idea how to command a warship-more concerned with their fancy new gonnes, steam engines, and propellers than the proper way to employ a pointy bow AKA tactics.

George Martin said...

Hi DC,

Another great report enjoyed over the proverbial cuppa :-)

I loved the intro, it really set the scene. Have you every thought about writing?

Many thanks,

George

Paul of the Man Cave said...

No doubt the Renown's Captain will be appearing before the King shortly to receive his VC!

David Crook said...

Hi Sean,

Many thanks old chap! the colour I use is the old Humbrol Authenticolour enamel called Mast Oak I may try a brown ink wash over it in due course to differentiate the ships by nationality.

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi SAROE,

At one point Renown was close enough to order ramming speed (in fact she may as well as done as her gunnery was dredaful!) but was sadly facing the wrong way....

I have a selection of ships with pointed ends that are patiently waiting their turn to be painted so proper tactics can used in due course...;-)

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi George,

Many thanks old boy! I enjoy writing and have chipped in with a few articles dotted around the societies I have belonged to over the years. Sadly though, my style is rather purple and my writing stamina notoriously short winded so confining myself to articles and blog posts is about as good as it will get!

Still, you never know what the the furure holds....

All the best,

DC

David Crook said...

Hi Paul,

He certainly deserved it although the gunnery officer was sent to Whale Island for some urgent refresher training....;-)

Gotta love those 1/2400th models though.

All the best,

DC