Thursday, 10 September 2020

By Dawn’s Early Light....The North Sea, 1914....Game Number 57, Part 2

I have stepped back from my original plan to increase the movement distances above and beyond the Jutland standard so will instead be using the movement gauge provided in the game. I have stuck with the increased gun ranges though, mainly because of the size of the models.

The British, led by the flagship H.M.S. Lion steaming north east....

....whilst the German, S.M.S. Derfflinger in the van, are heading due south

Aboard the bridge of S.M.S. Derfflinger the atmosphere was tense with anticipation. As far as Von Dervall could make out the British were attempting to head him off as as to prevent his force from reaching the safety of home waters. Whilst he was confident in respect of the quality of the ships under his command he could ill afford to get involved in a long drawn out action, especially as further smoke has been spotted to the rear of the British formation. Weighing up his options, Von Dervall decided that he would give the British a bloody nose - on his way back to Wilhelmshaven and safety.

Aboard H.M.S. Lion, Rear Admiral Inept stomped pugnaciously around the bridge, muttering curses under his breath as to the whereabouts of H.M.S. Tiger. He had ordered the turn that had separated the formation and rather than wait for the required acknowledgment had immediately gone to full speed to engage the enemy. The Commander of H.M.S. Lion - Captain E. Fishant - had pointedly mentioned to his Rear Admiral that the signal had not been acknowledged but, must to his chagrin, had been overridden. Being humiliated in front of his own bridge crew was not something he expected and his further interactions with the rear admiral were clipped and bordered on insolent, dripping as they were with sarcasm. It was wasted on Inept though as he blithely disregarded anything that did not agree with his overall plan.

Turn 1. Both sides maintain course and speed - the battle area marker is used to orientate the initial deployment and is normally in conjunction with the hexagonal plot maps supplied with the game.

Turn 2. Maintaining their existing course and with a combined speed in excess of 50 knots the two lines thundered towards each other.

The lines of great warships drew inexorably closer and within all was a veritable hive of activity as both sides made ready for action. Almost simultaneously the great gun turrets moved to face their enemies; their muzzles questing through the rapidly clearing morning haze, ready to unleash their deadly payloads. The range came down, called off at thousand yard intervals - “18,000 yards, 25 knots, course steady as she goes....17,000 yards, 25 knots, course steady as she goes....16,000 yards, 25 knots....”

Turn 3. At a little under 16,000 yards the German line swung south east and opened fire at H.M.S. Lion scoring a hit. Still the British came on.

First blood to the Germans as S.M.S Derfflinger scores a hit on her opposite number, H.M.S Lion.

The range had dropped to a little under 16,000 yards when Von Dervall snapped into action. He ordered the helm of the Derfflinger over to the south east, thereby opening his firing arcs. He also ordered the formation to reduce speed by ten knots which meant that he unsuspecting British would be in imminent danger of having their T crossed. The manoeuvre was superbly executed and the line was barely adjusting to its new heading when the great guns of the flagship thundered out across the tranquil early morning sea.

With a reverberating boom H.M.S. Lion shook as a German shell struck home. A great gout of smoke rose from the base of ‘A’ turret and obscured the bridge with cloying and acrid smoke. Hands reached out for anything that would steady then during the juddering vibration of the hit. Quickly the bridge crew resumed their duties as a deluge of damage reports, each one more urgent than the last, came in. Captain Fishant rattled out a string of orders to restore the ship’s fighting ability as he took stock of the damage. Thus far this was limited to a reduction in the speed of the turret traverse gear and some minor casualties. Fortunately the guns were pointing in the correct direction at the time the shell struck.

Fishant quickly realised what the Germans had done and that on their current course and speed they were sailing into a carefully laid trap. It was imperative that he could even the odds against them otherwise there was the making of a real disaster on his hands - and one month of his making.

Rear Admiral Inept surveyed the situation unfolding before him and did not hesitate. “The enemy has slowed so we must close the range and tough it out with them!” Fishant was aghast. Continuing on the present course was to court disaster as the deployed German battle line would be able to bring All their guns to bear with but a single ship able to reply - a damaged one at that. Fishant resolved not to waste lives by forcing a bad position and so made the only decision he could. He ordered the flagship to north west, in effect in the opposite direction to the Germans. It would be a passing engagement.

Turn 4. The German line, deployed on its new heading, is able to submit the British flagship to a punishing salvo but H.M.S. Lion, using her forward guns only, is able to retaliate, scoring a hit on S.M.S. Derfflinger 

The entire German line concentrates its fire on the first ship in the British line - the luckless H.M.S. Lion - but the Royal Navy are about to fight back.

The first hit on the German flagship.

Unfortunately 26,000 tons of warship travelling at 25 knots is not the most manoeuvrable of vessels so there would be some agonising minutes before the line assumed its new heading. Sure enough the Germans gleefully took full advantage and so the British flagship seemed to disappear under a forest of mast high shell splashes as 26 heavy guns - the entire German battleline - subjected her to salvo after punishing salvo. The ship was battered by successive hits and very quickly had her two forward turrets put out of action. Already carrying some damage A turret jammed completely whilst B turret was able to range in on the German flagship and was able to score a hit before being silenced.

Inept was apoplectic with rage at Fishant’s decision to turn across the German line and was about to voice his displeasure when the first of the latest round of German shells arrived. The shock of impact as the superstructure was hit knocked him off his feet and as he fell he caught his head on the edge of the chart table. His head was badly gashed and he was clearly unconscious. Under Fishant’s instructions the Rear Admiral was taken to the sick bay and in truth, he was pleased he was out of the way. His ship was sorely hit ‘Twixt wind and water’ but thus far nothing had damaged her machinery - a fact of which he was immeasurably grateful for as the British line prepared to run the gauntlet to safety.

Meanwhile H.M.S.Tiger was gamely trying to rejoin the battle line, all the while Captain Hyde-Bowned was desperately trying to find out what was happening ahead. There was plenty of gunfire for sure, but he needed to know where he should be aiming to position his ship.

Despite the minor hit to his flagship, Konteradmiral Von Dervall was well pleased with how things were playing out. His ships had made excellent practise against the leading British ship and had scored some telling blows. Most importantly though, was their decision to turn in the opposite direction to his meaning that they had abandoned any attempt to cut them off from their base. He had bloodied the nose of the enemy flagship and was feeling pleased with himself and his command when  the world seemed to fall in around his ears.

Turn 5. To minimise any further damage H.M.S. Lion swings her helm and is now heading north west - the opposite direction to the Germans. In doing so both sides are now able to engage their opposite numbers with full broadsides.

The excellent German gunnery batters the British line as the two sides speed off on divergent courses.

Despite the hammering she received from S.M.S. Derfflinger the British flagship managed to score some telling hits on her assailant.

As the British line assumed its new heading each ship opened fire against its opposite number, as fast as the great guns could be reloaded. A veritable blizzard of steel obscured the German ships as great gouts of shell splashes rose all around them. H.M.S. Lion, using her remaining two turrets straddled the German flagship and scored several hits whilst H.M.S. Indefatigable, the second in line, managed to hit S.M.S. Moltke. Only the final ship in the line, H.M.S Invincible, failed to register a single hit.

The German response was to engage their opposite numbers and they did so to telling effect. H.M.S. Lion was reduced to a shambles above the waterline with all her main guns out of action whilst the other two ships suffered minor damage.

Meanwhile, H.M.S. Tiger saw in the distance her squadron altering course and so Hyde-Bowned ordered her helm over to rejoin the formation as soon as she was able. Privately he was not looking forward to meeting with the Rear Admiral as the mistake would be laid firmly at his door.

Captain Fishant wanted to get as much distance between his ship and the Germans as possible considering the battering they had taken. For sure they could outgun and outnumber the Germans but every shell that hit had a cost. They could keep the Germans hemmed in which would work in the long term but would not deliver the ‘second Trafalgar’ that the public, and their flamboyant but currently indisposed rear admiral, so desperately craved.

As the respective lines passed in opposite directions and the range opened so, one by one, the great guns fell silent. There were contrasting emotions on the opposing flagships. The Germans were jubilant at causing the Royal Navy to break contact and with their noses bloodied for good measure. Only Von Dervall had any misgivings which he kept to himself. His ships may well be better than those of the Royal Navy but they had more of them and a greater weight of broadside for the most part. He was sure he could win an even fight but even the victor would need to count the cost of lives lost and damage sustained. One thing he was certain of, the British currently had 10 battlecruisers whilst he could manage 5. The long odds were in their favour and Von Dervall, for the first time in his career, felt the cold fingers of ultimate defeat reaching into his soul.


The game was short - 6 turns in fact - as the tactical system in Jutland assumes one move equalling 10 minutes. I used a variant firing table that did have any allowance for critical hits which was shame really as these certainly would have added to the flavour. I had forgotten just how much fun Jutland is to play but it it is not perfect - a fact of which I have been aware of for sometime. I have written pages and pages of planned ideas with this rule set and to be honest in my opinion it would not much to make it a really good system to use for naval battles. This is something that I would class as a mental project rather than a full blown one - the work can be fitted in as and when.

For now though it has given me a pleasant way to spend a few hours and I hope to revisit it again at some point.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


What a very interesting battle report, which read like something from an Official History!

I can see why you are thinking about the best model scale to use for battles involving dreadnoughts, although my heart tells me that bigger is better!

I’ll be interested to see where this project takes you.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

Many thanks old chap - much appreciated! At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious - the bigger the battle the smaller the ships need to be! I like models for sure but I have come to the conclusion that using them is fine for small actions, say up to half a dozen or so models a side but anything larger works just as well with counters.

It has given me much to think about (again) but I think I know where I am heading with this.

All the best,


Steve J. said...

What a cracking AAR and it felt like a lot more than 6 Turns!

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

That is very kind of you! It was good to get a game in and as is usual after not using a set of rules for a while, I was a little rusty. I have some plans for this going forward so I will certainly be revisiting it in due course.

It was six turns although the final turn was very much one of movement apart.

All the best,


david in suffolk said...

That's a great report - your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the period really comes across!

David Crook said...

Hello David in Suffolk,

Thank you kindly sir although I would say that my knowledge of the period is certainly not at the encyclopaedic level! The Great War at Sea has given me an enormous amount of pleasure over the years in one form or another and I keep coming back to it in one form or another!

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

You are getting my interest in WWI naval again David, good man ;)

David Crook said...

Hello there Geordie,

I must admit that I have certainly missed it. I need to add some bits and pieces to the collection but this is mostly limited to small stuff - destroyers mainly although there are some bigger units I want to add.

All the best,