Friday, February 3, 2017

The Battle of Sarigan, 1910

For most of the last week I've been in the grip of a nasty little bacterium whose malign influence is only now beginning to wane.  As a result it's only now that I can report on January's Saturday Afternoon Wargame.

This was the first time I'd introduced Perfidious Albion to the Saturday Afternoon crew.  Given that we had four players, two of them youngsters, I decided to keep the number of ships to a minimum and leave out some of the rules.

Our scenario was based on the idea that Carruthers, at the end of his adventures with Davies in the  Frisian Islands (see Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands), reported back the the Foreign and Colonial Office on their discoveries. His account was leaked and caused a public outcry.  How dare the beastly Hun attempt an underhand attack on dear old Blighty?  Something must be done! When our game takes place, the Admiralty has given orders to all Royal Navy ships at sea to engage and sink any Kriegsmarine vessels they encounter.

Our game took part in the Philippine Sea where Rear Admiral Woodward's (Gus's) squadron was to form up at the uninhabited island of Sarigan before seeking out the German East China Squadron (Rear Admiral Krähfeld, me).  Woodward's flag was carried by HMS GOOD HOPE and he was accompanied by the light cruiser GLASGOW. At Sarigan he was to rendezvous with the rather slow pre-dreadnought battleship CANOPUS commanded by Capt AJ Woodward (Arthur).

By an improbable coincidence, the main striking force of the East China Squadron (two modern armoured cruisers) was also to rendezvous at Sarigan. Krähfeld (in SCHARNHORST) was to form up with GNEISENAU (Capt. von Fluhwitz, Leo).

Starting positions were determined by some simple cards I made up at the start of the game. GOOD HOPE and GLASGOW would begin at anchor at the island whilst Canopus would enter from the south eastern corner of the table.  SCHARNHORST would enter from the southwest and GNEISENAU from the northeast!

This gave Gus the potential to concentrate his forces against a single German vessel but the anchored ships would take a while to get to full speed and CANOPUS, though carrying the heaviest guns, was the slowest ship in the action and would take time to join the fray.

Scharnhorst, foreground, with Good Hope and Glasgow
visible near the island and Gneisenau beyond.
Gus, perhaps taking the view that I, having played the game before, was the greater threat, moved GOOD HOPE and GLASGOW towards SCHARNHORST and a gunnery duel soon began.

Scharnhorst prepares to meet the British

Glasbow and Good Hope get under way

The sailed rather too close to the island under the rules as written but
I hadn't mentioned that to them so I ruled that the volcanic island
lacked the usual 3" surrounding area of shallows. 

A turning duel developed between SCHARNHORST and the two British cruisers and the German ship's superiority in big guns (a broadside of six 8.2" guns compared to GOOD HOPE's two 9.2s and GLASGOW's two 6" guns) began to cause damage to the British ships. The British players began to refer to their flagship as the No Hope!

At this point the 12" guns of CANOPUS began to find their range.

Canopus (far distance) begins firing on Scharnhorst
As CANOPUS closed the range, SCHARNHORST began to take damage. Her excellent amour was no proof against 12" shells.  Suddenly there was a mighty explosion and the German cruiser disappeared in a cloud of smoke. When it cleared there was nothing to see but a little floating wreckage.  A 12" shell from Canopus had struck her aft magazine!  

Scharnhorst explodes just as Gneisenau (right)
enters the battle area
At this point von Fluhwitz would have been well advised to withdraw as quickly as possible, albeit he'd have to do so by sailing in between the converging British forces.  But he couldn't resist slowing for one more shot at sinking one of the cruisers and he payed a heavy price.  A close range shot, and a lucky dice roll saw another magazine penetration and GNEISENAU too was lost with all hands. An observer on the bridge of one of the British ships was heard to mutter, "There seems to be something wrong with their damned ships today".

So a clear victory for the British.  There's likely to a knighthood in it for Admiral Woodward.

The rules were enjoyed and I think the decision to keep the number of ships to a minimum was a good one. Gus grasped the mechanisms quickly and was able to help Leo and Arthur with understanding their ship cards. Leo did spot an inconsistency in terminology - what are flooding boxes in the rules are flotation boxes on the charts.

Gus had to dash off to mark some finals papers so I took advantage of our early finish to teach Leo and Arthur the basics of X-Wing. We'll certainly play Perfidious Albion again soon but I think a bit of X-Wing may well feature in next month's Saturday Afternoon Wargame.


Richard Phillips said...

Great little game by the looks of it. Must get a copy of the rules soon.
Richard P

Counterpane said...

Thanks Richard!