Saturday, November 10, 2012

Second Battle of Dover Strait

Ryan and I played two games of Destroyer Captain, using the "Evans of the Broke" scenario based on the Second Battle of Dover Strait. On the night of 21 April 1817, two British flotilla leaders (large destroyers) surprise six German torpedo boats at close range. Both sides start in line ahead going in opposite directions; each side will be passing the other's port beam. They meet at two-hex range, which is the maximum gunnery range at night. Due to surprise, the German ships may not fire torpedoes on the first turn, and are only allowed to make one 60° pivot on the first turn; the British are unrestricted. In addition, the British have a superior commander (Edward Evans) and know what the Germans will do with their first two movement points each turn (with maximum movement being five or six points), so the Brits are not in as dire a situation as the three-to-one odds would suggest. The scenario lasts four turns.

In round one, the Germans tried to evade the inevitable British torpedo salvo but couldn't move far enough; the Brits had unusually accurate torpedoes and sank two of the Kaiserliche Marine vessels. Both squadrons turned into the other, with HMS Broke trying to ram three times in one turn, leading to the situation in the photo and lots of point-blank fire. As HMS Swift circled helplessly with a wrecked bridge and jammed rudder, Broke finally rammed the lead German vessel and finished it with gunfire. The tally at the end of the game showed three Germans sunk in exchange for to heavily damaged Brits--a decisive victory for the Royal Navy.

We traded sides and played it again. In round two, the Germans split into two squadrons of three and passed through the British line, evading the opening torpedo salvo, at the cost of a collision. The lighter German vessel was crippled in the collision and Broke easily administered a coup de grace with gunnery; however, the Broke was herself seriously slowed. The German squadrons came about, launching torpedo salvos as they came, and closed with the British. HMS Swift turned to meet the lead squadron, ramming one vessel and nearly sinking it; Swift herself was undamaged except for a minor fire and a jammed rudder. She and the remaining member of that squadron traded shots; the cripple, between them, cringed as shells from both sides whizzed past, but managed to survive--until an errant German torpedo sank her. On the last turn of the game, the four surviving Germans went for Broke. A storm of shells converged on the British vessel...but only a few hit, and those did minor damage, knocking out a gun and starting two minor fires. The British returned the compliment, starting a fire on one of the German boats. And with the conclusion of turn four, the scenario ended, with the Brits clearly ahead; the only thing left was to douse the fires. The German crew quickly and efficiently put theirs out, with no additional damage. The British crews, on the other hand... they tried, and tried, and tried....Swift was heavily damaged by her fire but finally managed to contain it; the conflagration on Broke reached a magazine, and she went down in a blaze of ignominy. The bill was two Germans sunk and one scratched, for one Brit heavily damaged and one destroyed, and Evans killed--a significant German victory, and due almost entirely to the hapless British firemen.

In the historical action, Swift torpedoed and sank the German boat G85.  Broke, with Evans commanding, rammed G42; the German crew boarded but the Brits repelled them with pistols, fixed bayonets, cutlasses, and hurled mugs of hot cocoa. G42 snapped in half and sank, and the action ended with the remaining four torpedo boats escaping, Swift lightly damaged, and Broke heavily damaged and in need of a tow. Evans was promoted to Captain and awarded the DSO.

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