Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Club Night 10th September

Steve K and I played a WW2 Naval set inthe Mediterranean using the Victory at Sea rules with Luke commanding the first elemnts of the British till he had to go to work, and Steve commanding the rest, while I commanded the glorious Italian Navy. Since I have recently set up a club forum and Steve posted an after action report there I will cheat this week and repost his report here. I will add though that it was great fun and a really good scenario from Steve.

At 20.00 12/9/** a British force comprising 3 J class destroyers supported by the Leander class destroyer HMS Ajax were patrolling west of Crete when they sighted a force of 4 Navigatorri class Italian destroyers that had previously been reported in the area. The British immediately gave chase and Ajax opened fire with her forward turrets, the only guns in the force that would bear and were in range. Notwithstanding the superior composition of the British force, the Italians, displaying the gallantry most often seen in their lighter forces, immediately turned to fight and sought to close to torpedo range. The heavier gunpower of the British force quickly told and left one Italian crippled but, nevertheless, the gamble paid off, two of the British destroyers falling victim to the Italian torpedos.

Despite their initial success, with their most effective weapon now spent the Italians chose discretion and turned away westward at their fullest speed. An accurate salvo from Ajax accounted for one of them, but this proved only to be the one that had already been crippled.

After the pursuit had continued for some time with the British fire failing to take any further effect at the long range and high speed, it became apparant that the Italians were in fact falling back on a strong supporting force, comprising a further 4 Navigattoris supported by the heavy cruisers Pola, Zara and Fiume. Now heavily overmatched, the British force reversed its course and made away towards the east, at the same time sending out urgent sighting reports, The Italians joined up and pursuedmaking copious amounts of smoke. This probably hindered them more than it did their enemies since it meant that only the Pola in the lead could shoot while the surviving British destroyer was unable to fire effectively at the range and the Ajax, which could, could fire only on the leading cruiser anyway.

However, the British flight was not without purpose. To the north-east, a force comprising dorsetshire, Norfolk and Belfast screened by a further J class and two Tribals had received the sighting report and was hurrying to the relief. By good fortune, they arrived on the disengaged side of the Italian force without being sighted due to a surface mist. Hampered by their own smokescreens, the Italians were unable to take proper advantage of their superior concentration whilst the British, concentrating on the Pola as leading ship, caused considerable damage. Worse was to happen for the hapless Italians. Although a lucky shot brought the Ajax, which had previously led a charmed life, to an abrupt halt with catastrophic engine damage, leaving it easy prey for the Italian destroyers which still had torpedos, the arrival of Norfolk and British concentration of fire overwhelmed Pola whilst Zara, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by the British failure to use torpedos up until then, offered herself as a perfect target for the last survivor of the J class (her sister having now been sunk). The heavy torpedo armament and powerful torpedos of the J class reduced the Zara from a powerful and untouched fighting machine to a sinking wreck.

Two more Italians had by now succumbed to the more powerful guns of their British counterparts and with true adherance to the Italian ideals, the Admiral decided that he should not risk his surviving heavy unit and sought to make his escape. The British heavy cruisers turned in pursuit but were too far in the rear to gain an aggle of fire past the smokescreen he generated whilst still maintaining gun range and the tribals could not close to torpedo range and arc. The final act of the drama occurred when the Belfast fell victim to the torpedos of the last Italian destroyer that had not fired theirs.

At the end, the Italians conceded a narrow victory to the British, with 4 Italian destroyers and 2 heavy cruisers lost to three British destroyers , one heavy and one light cruiser. Honours, however went to the Italian destroyers for their initial agression and for their clever use of the fact the the British could not be sure which of them still had torpedos.

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