Sunday, 29 August 2021

Victory at Sea: Night action off Recife

The culmination of our month long Wollongong Wargamers lock down campaign #1939commerceraidingcampaign was fought out yesterday on the tabletop using Victory at Sea rules.


In my last post Victory at Sea: Action off Monty we saw how the Allied hunting groups had engaged the Admiral Graf Spee, damaging her. Entering Rio for repairs, she then slipped out in the dead of night evading the waiting British cruisers. Well now history was repeating itself further north. Having lost an oiler to the British cruisers, and run at constant high speed throughout the campaign, the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper had entered Recife for fuel and spare parts. 



Somehow, British naval intelligence got wind of these arrangements and a reception committee was awaiting as the Hipper attempted to leave the following dawn. The skipper hastily put about, hoping to repeat the Graf Spee's moonlight flit in the dead of night... 


Unfortunately for the Hipper, its route out to sea took it right opposite the centre of the Allied cordon, where the most powerful unit, the heavy cruiser Australia was stationed. Both ships have 8 inch guns, although the Hipper is much better armoured..


The German team's tactical instructions were to concentrate on knocking out the nearest ship encountered in the cordon, making liberal use of starshell, whilst making for open water. (The Hipper had to make it off the opposite short table edge to escape).


I didn't receive tactical instructions from the Allied team, so played the long game - the Australia drew away from the heavier Hipper, whilst keeping her in contact, relying on support from the rest of the cordon to come up in a few moves time... 


Initially then the Australia sacrificed the fire of her forrad turrets in order to draw away, and was getting the worst of the exchange...


But was then able to come about to clear her aft arcs.


The two light cruisers of Force H, Ajax and Achilles were closing at flank speed, but would not be closing to night engagement range (20") just yet...


Which was giving the Hipper ample time to batter Australia with some pretty good shooting...although the Aussie was causing damage in return, by move 5 the lightly armoured cruiser was just one point away from becoming 'crippled'!


The two Leander class cruisers arrived on scene in the nick of time, allowing the Aussie to stand off slightly. 


Ajax's first salvo causes critical damage and a fire aboard the Hipper. The fire is rapidly extinguished by the phenomenal German DC teams, but Hipper loses an inch of speed - this could be significant!


Hipper refuses to be distracted from pummelling Australia, and the Aussie becomes crippled, losing both aft turrets and reduced to 3 inches of speed. However her final few volley's manage to cripple the Hipper, which loses its after turret and is now at only 2.5 inches of speed...Ajax launches its port torpedo battery at Hipper, but at long range all 4 fish miss...


The Hipper however, launches both of its port batteries at the nearby Achilles, and 2 of the 8 fish strike! Achilles quickly sinks....


Hipper is now close to limping over the home strait, with Australia effectively out of the fight with one hull integrity point remaining - so Ajax desperately manoeuvres to bring her stbd torpedo battery to bear...


One of the four fish strikes Hipper's hull and detonates, causing 7 points of damage - with only 5 hull points left, Hipper also goes down to Davy Jone's locker...10'' from the edge of the world and safety...


So near, and yet so far! Force H remains on station to pick up survivors and count the cost of eliminating the threat to the merchant navy lifeline in the South Atlantic: Achilles sunk, Australia barely afloat, Ajax virtually unscathed...


To sum up the outcome of the campaign as a whole, the two German raiders, and their two auxiliary consorts, have sunk over 50,000 tons of Allied shipping. They sank a light cruiser, and crippled a heavy and a light cruiser. This at the cost of one heavy cruiser, one auxiliary, and the Graf Spee and Esso Hamburg are now left to attempt the perilous 'channel dash' back home....

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