Close shave for Aufklärungsgruppen

Rhetor

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In January 1916 somwhere in the middle of the North Sea German Battlecruiser force was doing a reconaissance sweep. Unexpectedly, even though many Zeppelins were scouting the seas, they came across British Battlecruiser Fleet - nine mighty BCs and numerous lighter vessels.

Since there were only four hours of daylight remaining, German Admiral decided to accept the battle, while steaming away towards the Hochseeflotte. And that was his first surprise. When he went to his chart room and looked at the campaign map, he suddelny realized that the exact position of the Hochseeflotte was not marked! Somebody has forgotten to keep track! Strange indeed. Nevertheless, he decided to set a SE course, to the last remembered location of the Battle Fleet. Since British BCs, encumbered by the slower, older battlecruisers, were two knots slower than the Germans, it seemed reasonable to keep the distance and slug it out, trusting the superior skill of the gunners and thick armour of the German BCs.

Thus, the German Admiral decided to make an abrupt turn, close within 15 000 meters, and then return to the SE course. And then everything started to fall apart.

First of all, the superior skill of the German gunnery officers proved to be a hoax. The Admiral allowed his gunners to choose targets themselves. Only after a few salvos he realized that they all have selected the second ship in enemy line - the Princess Royal. He had to intervene, and after a few quick orders the four Cats were engaged. The delay proved decisive. The very first accurate shell from the Lion knocked out one of the turrets on the Seydlitz. That was only the beginning. Soon Von der Tann took three hits, which also smashed a turret. German admiral decided that there is no point risking it any further. He ordered his BCs to make a simultainous turn SE, while bringing up three DD flottillas to make a torpedo run. His only mistake was to trust his gunners once more. While he was busy selecting and ordering the light units to turn and close in, three leading BCs targeted the Lion! Only the oldest Von der Tann fired at the Invincible, scoring some hits and slowing her down two knots. Meanwhile more 13,5 inch shells smashed into German BCs - Moltke lost two turrets in a quick succession, all the other BCs were also hit, albeit with minor damage.

Meanwhile the DDs were closing in and firing. After all the problems with the gunners, the admiral thought that in daytime his DD commanders would fire their torps at the selected targets. Alas! Most of them refused to fire at selected ships. They trained their tubes, and suddenly reported that they have been given no targets! German Admiral hat to personally direct all the three flottillas selected for this attack; after one of the turns captains from one flottilla apparently decided that the conditions were favourable, and fired at the three leading British BCs. It was a huge salvo. Other DDs either fired only one torpedo, or they delayed inexplicably, thus waisting the possibility of firing simultainously. Anyway, many torpedoes were speeding towards the British BCs. They made some turns and avoided all of them but one which hit the Queen Mary in the stern, slowing her to 21 knots. Even though the actual damage done to the enemy was not substantial, he lost his formation, allowing the German BCs to get out of range.

That's all for now. The coming night might prove costly. Some screenshots included.
 
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Rhetor

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Today I have returned to the game. And, after a couple of minutes, something extraordinary happened. I have noticed a report message "BC Queen Mary is sinking". At first I thought that the one torpedo hit in the stern she suffered before has defied the efforts of her damage control teams. But when I looked at the British formation, it was in utter disarray. It must have been another torpedo! I paused the game immediately after the sinking report, and looked for torpedo trail(s), and have found none. I immediately saved the game under different name and restarted to see which of my DDs fired this laser-aimed torp. To my astonishment while scanning the surface I saw a wedge of four torpedoes plodding their way to the BC formation. I waited till the torps reached their target, and repeated it a few times from the save game to take screenshots and see how many hits I have actually scored the first time. Each time the Queen Mary was hit at least once, and those torps that missed the mark still had a few hundred meters range left. That strongly suggests that the first time she must have absorbed the whole four torpedoes, fired at a range of about 8000 meters. Truly astonishing result. I wish I knew which DD fired those torps - a Pour le Merite for her captain and torpedo officer would be in order. Anyway, Iron Crosses will rain.

Queen Mary went down after 30 minutes on even keel. Just before she sank, she fired a salvo to one of my destroyers, as if trying to avenge her fate.

I also took some time to survey the damage sustained and inflicted by my ships. It seems I have been way to scathing yesterday. Actually I have counted at least five hits on the Invincible, of which one was on the water line that surely was responsible of reducing her speed. One was pretty close to her port waist turret, but no KA-BOOM, at least not this time. The Lion was hit at least four times. There were also a few holes on Tiger and Princess Royal. However, none of British turrets were disabled.

German BCs got the worst of it in the artillery duel. Seydlitz's aft turret had a neat penetration hole on the side. Derfflinger escaped major damage and was fully operational, despite having been hit three times. Moltke lost two turrets, although there were no visible holes - most probably concussion put the turret or the crew out of action. Most astonishing was the damage on the aft turret on the Von der Tann. It was actually penetrated twice, and, judging from the distance between the holes, both shells might well have been fired from the same turret. Anyway, from about 10-14 hits received by the German BCs, at least five were direct hits on the turrets. I should be grateful that none of them exploded.

To sum it up: My BC squadron proved inferior to the Battle Cruiser Fleet, and I should have never let it separate so far from the Hochseeflotte; however, I managed to extricate all my ships, and sink a modern British battlecruiser, by coincidence the one with best fire control system. That will make future battles easier.

BTW. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun playing a wargame :D
 
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VaDingo

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Screenshots and narrative interesting. Thanks for the report....
 

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A good read! That torpedo salvo damage on Queen Mary was pretty impressive, i've yet to see any major damage caused by torps in my RN campaign.
 

Rhetor

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It was January 16th 1916, when the dockyards reported that the penetrated turret on SMS Von der Tann was repaired. Three out of four battlecruisers were ready for sea again. The fourth, SMS Seydlitz was still undergoing reparis of the aft turret and magazine, stricken by an English 34,3 cm shell during the previous battle. It would be weeks before the incinerated bowels of the turrets would be repaired.

That did not hamper the German admiral. On a staff conference he managed to convince his superior that the four newest German dreadnoughts, Rear-Admiral Behncke's 23-knot Königs, can safely accompany the battlecruisers during a sweep of the North Sea. Any weaker British force would be destroyed, any stronger safely avoided thanks to the superior speed of the capital ships. Reluctantly, his superiors agreed, and next morning seven capital ships with their escorts left Wilhelmshaven to cross into the North Sea near Horn's Riff.

The whole sweep was uneventful. The sea seemed empty. Even the scouting Zeppelins failed to detect anything tempting or threatening. After two days at sea German force headed home.

On the morning, some forty miles from Horn's Riff, one of the destroyers from the flottilla closing the formation reported that she sighted twelve British light cruisers steaming in three paralell columns at 10 000 meters NNW. Sun was rising, and soon other vessels appeared from the mist. First three armoured cruisers - Kent, Antrim and Devonshire. Destroyers came under fire and begun zig-zagging to offset the eforts of enemy gunners. The best was still to come.

German admiral could not believe his eyes, when he saw the next British ship appearing from the morining mist at 12500 meters from SMS Markgraf. He immediately recognized the distintcive shillouette. Yes! There was HMS Lion, with other grey shapes behind her, steaming SE at 24 knots, straight into the German formation. A vicious smile crept on his face. He stood up from his chair shouting "I got them! I got them!" It was exhilarating. This would be the chance to get even for the last time. To pay back for the deaths of many gunners burned in their turrets during the last battle. Calculation was quick - before enemy battlecruisers manage to turn tail and run, before they get out of the range of German guns, some of them are bound to be damaged, slowed down and sunk. Even if they all managed to get away, their escorts, especially the dangerous at night armoured cruisers, would succumb under the fire of faster German BCs. This is the chance the Aufklärungsgruppen were waiting for since the beginning of this year's campaign.

The column of four Königs and three BCs swiftly reversed course and increased their speed to flank. SMS Markgraf, now leading the line, took aim at HMS Lion great 30,5cm guns were trained on the target; shells and charges were inserted into the barrels, breechblocks went into place; barrels went up, and moments after the mighty ship heeled after a discharge of four shells. The enemy replied immediately.

German admiral knew well, that if he continued to close to the enemy head-on, British battlecruisers, executing a sharp turn, would for some time perfectly cross his T. Therefore he ordered his battleships to make a 40 degrees in-succession turn to starboard, while the faster battlecruisers, now in the van, made a smilar turn to port. After a few minutes the ships simultainously returned to the previous course, thus changing the formation into line of bearing, and engage the English BCs with all the forward turrets.

Meanwhile the British, as expected, headed NNW. During their turn they kept firing, but so far scored only one hit on SMS König. Germans kept switching to fire on the British BCs as they turned, so their fire was not very effective - only one or two hits were scored. One of German dreadnoughts targeted British light forces, which ventured too close. (Since all German light cruisers were still struggling to overtage the capital ships, the defence against CLs and ACs fell to them). One of the cruisers suffered a few hits from the secondary guns, and soon a direct hit by a 30,5 cm shell. She went down in a matter of minutes.
Some time before British BCs fired many torpedoes, avoiding which disorganized the German formation somewhat. The artillery duel went on, with some hits on both sides; at this stage HMS Princess Royal lost her turret amidships. Some visible hits were scored on HMS Indefatigable. Britsh BCs were steaming NNW at 24 knots. Germans were following them in two rather uneven line abreast formation, three battlecruisers to the left, four dreadnoughts to the right, firing furiously to inflict as much damage as possible before the British manage to get away. Light forces were following them, trying to catch up and maybe use their torpedoes... To be continued... (it's 11PM here, tommorow up at five AM)
 

Rhetor

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German admiral looked at the developments from his flagship Derfflinger All was looking well. His ships, especially the Königs, still being the closest to the enemy, fired admirably. The enemy gunners, though obviously hampered by their own smoke, were shooting reasonably well, repeatedly hitting the German dreadnoughts, but their thick skin deflecded all the shots; only the unarmoured parts suffered - searchlights, light FLAK guns were smashed with shell fragments. Though minor leaks developed from near misses, none of German ships lost any combat value. That was not true of the British BCs. Massive pillars of water and foam repeatedly straddled them. Sometimes a huge shockwave of an explosion marked a hit in an unarmoured part of the ship. More than once a dull thud signified a more serious hit, penetrating the armoured plating. Soon German Admiral noted with satisfaction that enemy speed begun to drop, first to 23, then to 22 knots. British Admiral seemed to have realized that a stern chase would result in losing his oldest and slowest battlecruisers. His line changed course to NNE, and then to NE. It was a clever move - uneven German line of dreadnoughts and battlecruisers could not effectively chase them in that direction and still fire effectively, because each ship would have to fire more or less above the ship steaming to the immediate right. The Admiral knew that he needs to reorganize his ships into a coherent line of battle, and therefore allow the British to gain a bit distance. Quick sequence of commands, and after not more than a quarter of the hour German dreadnoughts were steaming NNE, with battlecruisers some 3500 meters behind them and catching up fast. The light forces finally got nearer; DD flottillas and three pairs of light cruisers turned NNE; they deployed on the van and behind the battleline, careful not to obscure the view with their smoke, and yet ready to intervene should anything worthy a torpedo fell out of the British line, or should their massive light forces chose to help their beleguarded capital ships.

Meanwhile British fire became more accurate. One English 30,5 shell hit the Bruno turret on SMS Kronprinz. Its armour bent inwards, but did not break. However, hundreds of tiny fragments of the inner side wrought havoc in the turret. The gunners died in a split second. One fifth of her firepower was out of action. Other German vessels were hit too, but the famous quality of German shipbuilding and Krupp's steelworks proved to be not a bit exaggerated. All their vital organs were safe, and all but two heavy guns were firing with deadly precision.

Suddenly British line began a big turn in succession, coming onto a course 270 - straight West. It was a strange move. Did the British Admiral decide that he should sacrifice his fine ships and try to inflict as much damage as possible to his tormentors? German Admiral was still pondering this, when a massive explosion shook the British line. The newest and mightiest of British battlecruisers, HMS Tiger, suffered a critical hit. An explosion in her forward magazine ripped apart her bow. Her 28 000 tons of steel, still steaming at 22 knots, were simply pressed under the waves. This success was quickly announced to the crews. A mighty cheer sounded on all the vessels. The mightiest enemy was destroyed!

The satisfaction was huge. Germans were sure that it was only the beginning. Yet it was not to be. Amidst the cheering, handshaking and backslapping on Derfflinger's bridge, a young Leutnant zur See shouted nervously: "Eure Exzellenz, a Zeppelin coming back from her patrol reports that she sighted battleships Marlborough, Vanguard and Hercules, four armoured cruisers and numerous escorts spotted, speed 20 knots, course SSE, about 35 miles to the Northwest from our position!". Momentairly the bridge became silent, as the Admiral pondered over the sudden change of the situation.

This was a blow. In a few minutes his mood changed from growing expectaition, through shouts of triumph, into grave perplexity. He faced the dillemma: should he continue the battle, in hope of maiming as many British BCs as possible, knowing well that an unlucky hit that might affect the speed of his capital ships would surely result in her loss? He knew all too well that despite the proximity of Horns Reef and the defensive minefields of the Heligoland Bight, there were virtually no ships that could offer any serious resistance to the British juggernaut. All the other dreadnought of the Hochseeflotte remained tethered in Wilhelmshaven. The plan, devised by himself, did not require the presence of the battle force. And yet its presence would be very welcome indeed. He could still inflict more losses on the enemy, if only there was a larger force he could have fell back on.

Nevertheless, the German Admiral decided to take the risk. His seven ships made a Gefechtskehrtwendung, bringing them to the course 260, soon to be changed to SW, to maintain the range with the British, who were now trying to get closer. He knew the stakes and still decided to take the risk. British battle fleet was still way far away, and there was still some time to break off the action; the weaker German Navy could not prevail if it did not accept big risk for high gains. So British BCs and German BCs and BBs were now steaming almost paralell, slugging it out at ranges from 13500 to 14500 meters...

To be continued...
 
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Rhetor

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Both fleets were steaming on paralell course, exchanging broadsides. German gunners proved their worth this time. The conditions were even. Germans, who were windward, were slightly hampered by their own smoke. British, on the other hand, had to stare almost directly into the sun. Nevetheless, during this stage of the battle Germans found the range almost perfectly. Almost each salvo straddled the British. Soon the portsides of British BCs, until then mostly unharmed, were spotted by black marks of direct hits. More and more turrets fell silent. The British were noticeably slowing down. German Admiral congratulated himself on his decision. The Grand Fleet, followed closely by the observers from the Zeppelin, was still reasonably far away.

It took some time for the British to find the range. Still, direct hits did not inflict much damage. SMS Moltke developed a minor leak. Some secondaries were put out of action. Everything seemed to be going well.

German observers on the compass platform onboard SMS Derfflinger noticed a salvo, which straddled one of the dreadnoughts. Soon a signal lamp flickered. The signalmen reported the news the German Admiral dreaded to hear: "Eure Exzellenz, Grosser Kurfürst reports propulsion damage"! Admiral cursed. "So it happened!". Moments later SMS Moltke took a direct hit just under her smokestack. The bad news compounded: Moltke too, reports machinery damage Eure Exzellenz!" Noone can describe the feelings which engulfed the German Admiral. Barely a quarter of an hour after he decided to risk the engagement, trusting the superior speed of his capital ships, two of them took a fateful hit. Since the beginning of the battle Admiral had to endure sudden changes of situation which strained his nerves. Soon, however, he began to get round. Perhaps situation was nat so bad. None of the affected ships was belching steam, which would signify boiler damage. "All ships, report maximum sustainable speed!", came the signal. With both answers the Admiral felt immense relief. SMS Grosser Kurfürst could still make 21 knots. Moltke would manage 23. With the British force dropping speed to 19 knots the situation, though serious, was not grave. But it was clearly high time to break off the engagement.

A flurry of orders went out. The battle line was directed South at maximum sustainable speed. One DD flottila which closed the formation was ordered to pass between the BCs and BBs and the British at maximum speed, to cover their withdrawal with their smoke. Three flottillas in the van were ordered to make a massed torpedo run on the British battlecruisers.

Thus, the range opened, British fire became less accurate, and the destroyers went forward with massive bow waves. Defying the fire of a British CL squadron, the only light division which came to fend off the torpedo threat, they closed within 8000 meters and fired. One DD actually fired her torps at the light cruisers; a few minutes later HMS Galatea took a hit and started to sink. This small success was only the beginning. Due to lack of proper solution only a small part of available torps were fired at a time. But one of the salvos - a wedge of four torps - was indeed very well aimed. HMS Indefatigable, battered by German shellfire, did not manage to turn fast enough. She took a hit amidships. HMS Invincible, steaming right behind her, was nearly hit - her massive bow wave swept the torpedo away. Destroyers, thanks to their speed, took only a few hits, and began their return to the battle line, adding their smoke to form a makeshift screen before the damaged capital ships.

And that's all for now. The battle is saved, but currently I don't have time finish it :(.
I said that the previous battle was fun. I was wrong. This battle was fun. This battle was simply gripping, level of immersion incredible. Can't wait to play it to the end.

EDIT: A screenshot added.
 
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Rhetor

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This is the final installment of this AAR.

While the range between the battle lines was opening, British fire got suprisingly more accurate, even though all the British battlecruisers concentrated their fire on SMS König, the last ship in German line. German commander, seeing the enemy drop speed to barely 14 knots after the torpedo hit on HMS Indefatigable (her list was increasing), and that after severe pounding all the heavy turrets on HMS Lion were knocked out, for a while considered to keep the distance and try to finish off at least some enemy ships. The growing accuracy of British fire soon cured him from such thoughts. The König was hit in the bow waterline by an entire salvo of four 13,5 inch shells. She developed 38% leak (23% persistant) - a clear sign that even the extra-durable German ships cannot survive excessive pounding. German Admiral ordered a simultainous turn to course 129, straight on Horns Rev and the passage into Heligoland Bight. The range opened fast; to cover the retreat, another flottilla of six destroyers was sent to attack the British battle line.

The commander of the destroyers led the run from the bridge of B-110. He well remembered the torpedo attack manual, devised by Fregattenkapitän Patronenkopf :)D) from the Naval School, and chose his targets so that both the double tubes and the port forward single tube could fire. The result was great. All six DDs fired five torpedoes each; in all thirty torps begun their deadly run at the battered British battlecruisers. The destroyers, almost untouched by the British fire (the loss of HMS Tiger left the British with 4 inch secondaries only), steamed away behind the retreating BBs and BCs, anxiously looking for hits on the British capital ships.

British lookouts spotted the torpedo tracks soon enough. BCs began to evade; HMS Princess Royal managed to dodge four torps, but a fifth got her amidships, though with no heavy damage. Other BCs were turning, but the wave of torpedoes was relentlessly closing. Some were bound to hit... Alas! As if a singal was given, all the torps suddenly sank - their fuel gave out. Massive attack and well aimed torps - all for nothing! German capitains were angered by this result. Twenty destroyers fired their torps that day, perhaps eighty torpedoes were fired, and only three hits scored - one on HMS Indefatigable, one on HMS Princess Royal and one on HMS Galatea.

Meanwhile German BBs and BCs got out of range, and the battle ended soon thereafter. The report said that four British ship have sunk, and that would mean that apart from two CLs and the Tiger, yet another BC has succumbed to the damage. I would bet it was the Indefatigable, because her list increased to 4 last time I checked.

Lessons learned:

NEVER leave the Heligoland Bight with the Scouting Forces without the Hochseeflotte - you never know what you might encounter. If I had the battle force nearby, I would have detached another fast BB squadron to finish off the BCF.

NEVER underestimate the firepower of the British BCs. They can knock out even a BB in a short period of time, given the right conditions. When I tried the torpedo advice given yesterday by Bullethead on this savegame and made a few test runs without taking notice of the battle line, I noticed that the König has actually sunk!

NEVER fire torpedoes at extreme ranges :D

This was an awesome game. But I would not have faired so well had the AI tried to make any use of its light forces. The massed DD flottillas kept circling away from the engagement, allowing my DDs to make their runs virtually unopposed.
 
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Bullethead

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He well remembered the torpedo attack manual, devised by Fregattenkapitän Patronenkopf :)D)
In my German AARs, I always call myself "Geschosskopf". But my German is even worse than my so-called French so I have no idea if this is a correct translation :).

Glad to hear the workaround was successful in at least getting your torps in the water.

NEVER fire torpedoes at extreme ranges :D
Yeah, that's something we should tweak. You should request that ships wait until they've got about 500-1000m of wiggle room on the torpedo range, instead of launch the instant the target's within the very edge of extreme range.
 

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Also it would be nice to have AI use light forces more agressively while AI capital ships engaging, while less agressive when AI Capitals are out of battle.
 

TacCovert4

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Also it would be nice to have AI use light forces more agressively while AI capital ships engaging, while less agressive when AI Capitals are out of battle.
I agree. It's really pointless for AI light forces to stand their ground erm water in formation when the AI capital ships are withdrawing. They should really run away, because when they don't I get to pick up obscene kill ratios with my secondary batteries.
 

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I agree with the above points, too lazy to do any pestering though.
I really just want to repeat what Rhetor said earlier, I have NEVER had so much fun playing ANY war game, simulation/arcade, whatever. The battles are truly epic, I often have several running skirmishes leading up to a major fleet action, the latter often lasting two or three nights and I play for hours every night.

This game IMHO is set to be an all time classic and for those put off by the security I just have to say I have experienced ZERO problems so far. I have yet to upgrade my PC since getting Distant Guns followed swiftly by Jutland but from what I've read it is just a matter of being methodical.

Once again, Jim Rose (Hope thats the right name), Bullethead and anyone else invloved,
Thank you for all your hard work, this game is GENIUS and ALONE in its own genre.
 
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