Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wind and Water or 'Carry on Jack'.....

Yesterday evening at the club I took part in a small 1/1200th scale Napoleonic Naval action using models from the collection of the redoubtable Mr Fox (and very nice they are) and a fast play set of rules obtained from a magazine some time ago – I cannot remember which so will check and update in due course. Each squadron consisted of 6 ships with the French having five ships of the line and a frigate whilst the Royal Navy had 6 ships of the line. Each force had a first rate as the flagship with the remainder being third rates. The French had the advantage of the weather gauge with the wind directly behind them whilst the Royal Navy had the wind off the bow and so were at an initial disadvantage. The scenario was simple – the French had to exit the Royal Navy baseline whilst the Hearts of Oak had to stop them. For this action yours truly had command of the French whilst our own ex-gunner, Ernie Fosker, hoisted his flag aboard the Royal Sovereign and the Royal Navy.

The French deployed as a single squadron of five ships in line ahead with three of the 3rd rates followed by the 1st rate flagship and an 80 gunner bringing up the rear. The frigate was deployed off the lead French ships starboard beam and sailing on a parallel course. I should point out that although compass points for the wind were not assigned as part of the game set up I have chosen to call the French base line South and so all directional references are based upon this assumption. At the start of the action then, the French were heading in a North Easterly direction.

The British deployed in two divisions of three ships sailing parallel with the flagship deployed in the lead position of the Westerly column. Overall the formation was heading in a South Westerly direction.

The French moved off taking advantage of the wind and headed towards the British who in turn reciprocated whilst battling against the wind to try to initiate the action. The French then turned due North individually and ran before the wind across the van of the two British divisions that had turned due West in anticipation of this move. This brought the Westerly division, with the flagship – Royal Sovereign – into firing distance of the leading French 3rd Rate – the Jupiter – and so first blood went to the British with a damaging broadside. The next turn saw the Jupiter park off the bows of the Royal Sovereign and rake it from stem to stern. The Royal Sovereign then ran into the Jupiter and boarders were called away. The British though had not reckoned on the pluck of their adversaries as the gallant matelots through back their assailants and severed all the grapples etc. The wounded Jupiter stood off and blasted the Royal Sovereign before limping away. The second French 74 received some fire and gave the Royal Sovereign a long range broadside that inflicted minimal damage. The rest of the British were struggling to get to grips with the French who were by now deploying full sail where able in order to make good their escape. The final turn saw the French flagship saluting the British opposite number in passing with the benefit of a full broadside but the damage inflicted was insufficient to make any further impact on the Royal Sovereign. The French then made good their escape thereby satisfying the victory conditions of the scenario.

The final score in respect of damage etc was that no ships were sunk; the French had two damaged 3rd rates – the first with heavy damage, but nothing fatal and the second with very minor damage. The sole British ship damaged was the Royal Sovereign and she had suffered a severe pummelling from two 74s and a 120 gunner. Only the fact that the French gunnery was so poor enabled her to survive and I suspect that their Lordships at the Admiralty would take a pretty dim view of the proceedings.

It was always going to be difficult trying to stop an opponent that had both the weather gauge and that also did not want to be caught and so a certain degree of sympathy should be allowed for the British commander. However, by choosing to use two columns he made his formation much too compact which meant that it was easier for the French to avoid action and that when it did get into range only a couple of ships would be able to have any effect on the issue. The French could have headed North much sooner and would then probably have completely avoided the British but this of course makes no allowance for daring of the respective combatants.

The French Frigate sailed undisturbed across the rear of the British squadron, mindful of the need to resist the obvious temptation of a passing stern rake thereby preserving the gentlemanly tradition of ships of the line not engaging smaller vessels unless they try it on first!


Paul O'G said...

It conerns me sometimes how closely our gaming tastes align. Luckily we dontgame together regulalrly or I think we would both be very poor men...but happy nonetheless!

David Crook said...

Hi Tas, One of the great things about our hobby is how willing kindred spirits are to enthuse about similar topics! You are quite right though - very poor although with a shed load of games under our respective belts!

All the best,