Following on from yesterday’s “convoy” battle, another long-outstanding battle which turned up in my “to do” tray. This was the battle of Cape Matapan, which I was intending to fight as a full scale game, but may be better fought as separate actions.
Whatever the final decision is, today I played the first action: the engagement off the island of Gavdos.
The account of the original action, taken from Wikipedia, reads thus (edited to remove hyperlinks):
“Action off Gavdos
On 28 March, an aircraft launched by Vittorio Veneto spotted the British cruiser squadron at 06:35. At 07:55, the Trento group encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell’s cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos The British squadron was heading to the south-east. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000 yards (22,000 m). The three heavy cruisers fired repeatedly until 08:55, with Trieste firing 132 armour piercing rounds, Trento firing 204 armour-piercing and 10 explosive shells and Bolzano firing another 189 armour piercing shells, but the Italians experienced trouble with their range finding equipment and scored no significant hits. HMS Gloucester fired three salvos in return. These fell short but did cause the Italians to make a course change.
As the distance had not been reduced after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. Iachino let them come on in hopes of luring the British cruisers into the range of Vittorio Veneto‘s guns.”
And with that in mind, how did the wargame progress?
At 08:00 the Italian squadron came within range of the British squadron, both heading to the south-east. The Italian cruiser Trento opened fire at long range (10 hexagons), scoring one hit on HMS Orion. Orion returned fire with her stern guns. The range was good and four hits were registered, giving the Trento one point of damage. The Trento fired again with her forward guns and damaged the Orion. Trento’s secondary guns also fired but to no effect.
The British squadron, aware that they could not outrun the faster Italian ships, turned to fight, planning to bring their broadsides to bear on the enemy. Anticipating this manoeuvre the Italians turned to starboard and crossed the British front line.
From this position the Italian ships were able to fire broadsides at the British, who had turned to inflict this upon the Italians.
HMS Gloucester fired her forward guns on the Trento, scoring 4 hits with the main guns for 1 point of damage, and a further hit with the secondary guns. HMAS Perth added her fire with 5 hits and a further damage point. Trento, with 2 damage points against a hull value of 3, was now “crippled”. This means -1 to armour, vital armour and speed.
HMS Ajax fired a long range broadside at the Bolzano, scoring 3 hits but no damage. HMS Orion also fired at the Bolzano, but failed to register any hits.
The Italians returned fire. The Trento fired a devastating broadside at the HMS Gloucester with 11 hits from her main guns and a further 3 from her secondary armament. The Gloucester began to sink.
The Bolzano fired at HMS Ajax and scored 4 hits, inflicting 1 damage point. Trieste fired at HMS Orion with her forward guns. 2 hits were registered.
The head of the Italian squadron now turned to the south-east after crossing the British front. On the British side, HMS Ajax made an emergency turn to starboard to avoid the sinking Gloucester, followed by HMAS Perth. HMS Orion continued to the south-west to cross the new enemy front. The destroyer HMS Ilex passed directly in front of the Italian destroyer Ascari, risking being rammed.
The Bolzano fired her main and secondary guns at HMAS Perth, inflicting two points of damage and a crippling effect. The Trento fired at the destroyer Ilex and sank her before she could inflict any damage on the Ascari.
HMS Ajax fired at the Trieste and inflicted 1 damage point. HMAS Perth and HMS Orion both fired at the Bolzano, scoring 3 and 2 hits respectively but no serious damage. The destroyer HMS Hereward scored a hit on the Trento, but again no serious damage.
Note: Although it looks like these ships are at very close quarters, the actual model at 1:1800 scale represents its “sea room” required for operation. A cruiser occupying two hexagons is actually using an area of about 400 x 200 yards and the opposing ships are about half a mile apart.
By 08:25 the battle had broken down into individual engagements with each ship operating to its best advantage.
The Ascari, with no room to manoeuvre, struck the sinking HMS Ilex and took severe damage to her bow. She too began to sink. HMS Orion fired at the destroyer Corraziere, inflicting one damage point. HMS Hereward damaged the destroyer Carabiniere.
HMS Hasty launched torpedoes against the Bolzano, but they failed to strike home.
HMAS Perth scored five more hits on the Trieste, crippling her. HMS Ajax destroyed the destroyer Carabiniere with an overwhelming barrage, scoring 9 direct hits.
At 08:30 the Corraziere attacked HMAS Perth but with no significant damage. The Trento sank HMS Hasty. Trieste fired a broadside at HMAS Perth, scoring five more crucial hits and crippling her. The Bolzano joined in and with 11 more hits sank the Australian cruiser.
In the next five minutes the Italians completed their destruction of the British squadron. The Bolzano hit the Orion six more times, and the Trieste added five more hits to the stricken cruiser. The destroyer Corraziere sank HMS Hereward and the Trento scored eight telling hits on HMAS Perth. Three British ships began to sink and the battle was over.
A decisive victory for the Italian navy. From the British squadron of four cruisers and three destroyers all had been sunk except the cruiser HMS Orion, which was severely damaged but able to escape. The Italians had two cruisers and one destroyer severely damaged by enemy fire, one destroyer sunk and a second destroyer sunk after a collision.
The turning point in the battle was literally just that. The British squadron turned to attack but the Italians seized the initiative and crossed their line in Nelsonian fashion, and were thus able to bring all their guns to bear at short range.
Rules: tweaks and clarifications
Each salvo is to be adjudicated independently. If a ship is firing both main and secondary (or even tertiary) guns, the damage effect is registered for each set of guns independently. Likewise, if two ships attack one, the damage from each is registered separately, not cumulatively.
No ship may fire guns and launch torpedoes in the same turn, because the effect of firing would disrupt the balance of the ship and thus the aim of the torpedoes.
Depth charges may only be used if no other weapons are in use, it being deemed that if main guns or AA guns are in use there are higher priorities on the surface or in the air!