Saturday, 23 November 2013

Breakthrough - A Naval Thunder Battlereport

The Situation

 August 1914 - The German Mediterranean Squadron is on its way east back from shelling french ports in North Africa shortly after the declaration of war. After briefly encountering parts of the British mediterranean fleet, who where ordered to disengage as Britain was not yet at war with Germany, Admiral Souchons two Ships anchored in Messina Harbor to coal. Historically, Admiral Milne deployed two of his three Battlecruisers North of the Straits of Messina and sent Indomitable to coal at Bizerta.

This scenario explores what might have happened if Indomitable was sent to Malta instead, able to intercept Göben in combined strength with Troubridges 1st Cruiser Squadron, deployed on the southern fringes of the Adriatic Sea.

The Forces

The German Mediterranean Squadron fields the Battlecruiser SMS Göben, a Moltke-Class almost-battleship. Though armed with a slightly smaller main gun calibre than the British battlecruisers, it features much stronger armor (11 inch belt armor, 9" turrets & barbettes, 1-3" deck armor) than its British counterpart (Indomitable: 6" belt armor, 7" turrets & barbettes and 1,5-2,5" deck).
SMS Göben is also slightly larger (25.000 tons displacement fully loaded) than Indomitable (20.000 tons) and able to withstand slightly more hull damage. Both Battlecruisers are designed for a speed of 25,5 knots.

In addition to their Battleship, Germanys Squadron has a Light Cruiser escort of the "Magdeburg"-class. It´s a rather ligthly armed vessel, mounting merely 4,1"-guns and some torpedoes. Easily outclassed by even the British light Cruisers in the theatre. The Breslau is thus more of a liability then an asset.

The British field their Indomitable (Invincible Class) with 12" guns, slightly outranging the Göben and packing marginally more punch, but lacking the big armor of their german countepart.

First Cruiser Squadron consists of 4 Armored cruisers, two Duke of Edingburgh-class, one Warrior-class and one Minotaur-class, all with 9,2" Main Armament and comparable armor to the British Battlecruiser. Their smaller calibre packs less of a punch and must be utilized on closer range, but could penetrate the Göbens Armor with some lucky hits at closer range (At least in Naval Thunder).

In addition, the British field their own light Cruiser, HMS Gloucester, a Bristol-class vessel that was shadowing the Germans when they attempted to break through. With its 6" guns it can outgun the Breslau, but is naturally no match for Göben, except if able to sneak up into torpedo-range (which the secondary guns of Göben will prevent most assuredly).

 Setup & Mission Objectives

The Germans start at the Nort-Western end of the table, trying to leave the table on the southern or eastern end. They must maintain sufficient speed not to be caught by the remaining British battlecruisers, which would spell doom upon the Division. This means both ships must escape with a speed rating equal to the british Battlecruisers (6 for Naval Thunder).

The British are trying to prevent the German breakthrough, sinking both ships if possible - but for victory, reducing the Germans speed enough to allow the rest of the Med. Squadron to catch up would suffice (see above).

The Battle

 Starting out of Gun Range, the first few minutes where spent carefully maneuvering towards the enemy.

Battlemap is abstracted, distances are not accurate!

 In the second turn, the Battlecruisers already acquired targets and fired the opening salvos of the battle at extreme distance. Though one shell came close to hitting Gloucester, it missed the light cruiser barely and landed harmlessly in the water.

Indomitable returned fire on Göben and actually scored the first hit! Fortunately, the thick armor of the Göben prevented any serious damage and left the ship with some scratches and minor damage to the outer hull.

After coming under fire, Gloucester took evasive maneuvers and turned away to. Indomitable turned starbord to range in a full broadside on Göben, while the Armored cruisers closed in further and turned star as well to deliver their full fire later.

All the while, Breslau danced around the Göben with her superior speed to avoid being targeted by the large guns of enemy ships.

I don´t know why the pic is grey...
Turn three saw some more gunnery, with the range closing quickly as the formations steamed towards each other. Indomitable fired a full broadside salvo on Göben, scored another single hit with a shell and failed again to penetrate Göbens superior armor.

Göben switched targets and fired off at the lead cruiser HMS Minotaur to its front, but failing to hit with her two turrets in the front arc.

wtf.. another shade of grey?!

After successfully luring Troubridges Cruisers into a starbord turn to deliver their broadsides, Souchon ordered full 90° starbord turn himself, while Troubridges Cruisers didn´t turn south to correct the previous mistake. Having all British cruisers to his east now, the Germans steamed full speed south, hoping to catch the enemy in their weak flank and achieve a breakthrough.

Indomitable again unleashed a broadside, this time on SMS Breslau, the lightly armored weak part of the german formation. Fortunately, despite coming close to hit, all shots missed, while Göben unleashed her full broadside against the British Battlecruiser again.

Shooting on a larger target, Göben achieved a hit and promptly penetrated Indomitables weak armor, destroying a torpedo mount.

Finally in Range, the lead Cruisers of 1st Cruiser Squadron opened fire, but failed to hit anything on extreme range for their smaller 9,2" guns.

Finally, Troubridges Cruisers turned southwest to pursue the Germans, who where already making good progress to the south. Breslau took evasive actions and slowed down a little to allow Göben to catch up, having the Battlecruiser as a shield between the enemy guns and the light cruiser.

HMS Gloucester, now perilouly close to the enemy battlecruiser, took evase action herself and tried to flee east towards Indomitable, but failed to leave German secondary battery range in time.

Again, the Battlecruisers traded fire, Indomitable scoring one non-penetrating hit, while Göben delivered 3 hits on target, with 2 penetrating the british armor. Both shells struck secondary turrets and destroyed them.

With Gloucester in effective Range of her 5,9" secondary batteries, Göben unleashed hell on the British light cruiser, hitting it twice on extreme range. The shells easily pierced the weak armor and damaged Engine room and rudder, dooming the light Cruiser to limp around in circles until the rudder was fixed.

Troubridges lead Cruiser Minotaur fired another salvo on extreme range, failing to hit Göben.

Though struck by two shells, HMS Gloucester ranged her guns in on Breslau, but againl long range and frantic turning and twisting by both Cruisers made the chance of hitting anything remote.

With its rudder jammed, Gloucester turned port towards the enemy formation, while the Cruiser formation vainly tried to catch up. Indomitable finally turned, trying to deliver some decisive blow on the enemy, who simply steamed ahead to escape.

Indomitables fire actually scored two hits, with one penetrating Göbens armor by hitting a weak part. Unfortunately for the British, it only disabled a secondary turret and did not much harm. The second shell hit well protected parts and failed to penetrate.

Göbens answer was swift and decisive: 8 Guns firing at medium range, precisely targeted and delivered with devastating effect: Five hits on the British Battlecruiser, all penetrating weak parts of the armor, hitting the Engine Room twice, Fire Control, and disabled two secondary battery turrets. The blasts of the Explosions shook the ship and seriously damaged the ships internal structure. Still afloat, Indomitable was now a slow, badly stricken wreck which would need months of repair in a friendly harbor.

Again, the secondary batteries targeted the wounded Gloucester, scoring another hit on long range and disabling a gun turret.

HMS Minotaur fired their front guns again, but hit nothing due to the excessive range between the flotillas.

With the Battlecruiser badly hit and HMS Gloucester out of action, the British commander decided to disengage and let the Germans escape. Souchon, unwilling to risk more than necessary, continued south and escaped the British.


Decisive German victory! With barely a scratch on his ships and at full speed, Souchon left a crippled British Battlecruiser limping back to Malta. The British public is shocked about the resounding defeat and the British Admiralty starts an investigation into the reasons for the defeat.

Post-Battle Analysis

When I set up this scenario, I thought the Germans would have a hard time against a superior British fleet. However, the German Battlecruiser design has proven to be more effective than the British. Granted, the English made some mistakes in turning their Cruiser Squadron north, where they could be outmaneuvered and left behind, which left them effectively out of battle, but in the end the decisive factor in the battle was the lack of British heavy armor and the survivability of the German ship. The British can only lose when confining the battle to such a duel. Their leverage to win this scenario is the light Cruiser Breslau, which must be separated from its big brother or brought down by the heavy guns of the Indomitable.
Furthermore, the British cruisers should probably be used in an aggressive manner to close the distance quickly and unleash their smaller main calibres on closer distance. Their numerical advantage enables them to overwhelm the gunnery of the Göben, as they can only pick one target at a time and will not easily penetrate the armored Cruisers defenses with their secondary guns.

All in all, contrary to my expectatios, this scenario is more difficult for the British than it is for the Germans, and it is perfectly understandable why such a fight was avoided by the real commanders - and why three Battlecruisers where dispatched to destroy Göben. It´s a powerful ship that can take quite some pounding!

I´m pondering if I should add a Destroyer Flotilla to the British Order of Battle, to make things more interesting and give the British some more options with Torpedoes. 

And sorry for the bad images, I wasn´t able to use the original pictures of the Battle as it didn´t occur on a blue surface, I´m still looking for some cheap blue cloth.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up. What a frustrating day for the Royal Navy!

    I went to a fabric store and was able to get quite a lot of deep blue felt for not much money.