Following the fun they had with The Battle of Denmark Strait, where the outcome was virtually identical to history, the two Johns decided to have a rematch. This was to see whether the ‘WWII Micronauts: The Game’ rules by GHQ could give a different outcome.
The scenario was the attempt of the KGM Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to break out into the Atlantic past the picket line of British ships. They were spotted by the British cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk, who called in reinforcements in the shape of HMS Hood and Prince of Wales.
The Opposing Ships
Bismarck class battleship (German).
Main armament: 4 turrets with 8 x 15” guns, 6 turrets with 12 x 5.9” guns, 8 turrets with 16 x 4.1” guns plus 8 mounts with 16 x 37mm AA guns.
Maximum speed: 30 knots, Length: 251m, Weight: 40.4 tonnes standard.
KGM Prinz Eugen
Hipper class heavy cruiser (German).
Armament: 4 turrets with 8 x 8” guns, 6 turrets with 12 x 4.1” guns, 6 mounts with 12 x 37mm guns plus 8 x 20mm AA guns.
Maximum speed: 32½ knots, Length: 208m, Weight: 19.4 tonnes standard.
Hood class battle cruiser (British)
Main armament: 4 turrets with 8 x 15” guns, 4 turrets with 8 x 4” guns, 3 mounts with 24 x 2-pdr AA guns.
Maximum speed: 29½ knots, Length: 262m, Weight: 41.3 tonnes standard.
HMS Prince of Wales
King George V class battleship (British).
Main armament: 3 turrets with 10 x 14” guns, 8 turrets with 16 x 5¼” guns, 4 mounts with 32 x 2-pdr AA guns.
Maximum speed: 28 knots, Length: 227m, Weight: 38.4 tonnes standard.
The starting point was the same as the previous game, which is the historical setup. The British were angling in towards the German from the German’s rear port quarter. The KGM Prinz Eugen was leading the KGM Bismarck. HMS Hood led HMS Prince of Wales. The latter had ‘A’ turret of 4 guns out of action due to commissioning problems. Again we made the targets for each ship the same as occurred historically, with the Hood initially mistaking the leading Prinz Eugen for the Bismarck.
Being at long range and in heavy seas, hitting anything was difficult. The only successful fire of the first turn was from the Hood, who caused 5 hits on the hull of the Prinz Eugen (out of 29 the German ship started with) plus engineering damage, which reduced the German’s speed to no more than 16 knots.
Prinz Eugen working on repairing the engineering damage.
Quickly closing range.
Prinz Eugen knocked out forward fire control on Hood.
Hood knocked out a secondary turret on the port side of Prinz Eugen. The explosion of the shell caused 4 more damage to the hull and undermined ‘X’ turret, putting it out of action. (Rules note. Each ship has its hull points divided into 4 rows. When a row is crossed off, the accumulated damage can knock out one main or secondary turret).
Bismarck and Prince of Wales were having trouble finding the correct range in the heavy swell.
|HMS Hood leading the HMS Prince of Wales and looking across to the KGM Bismarck trailing the KGM Prinz Eugen.
British ships slowly curving to port, so as to maintain fire from all main guns on to the German ships. This reduced the closure rate.
Prinz Eugen successfully made temporary repairs and was able to go at full speed again. With the sudden increase in speed, the gunners on the Prinz Eugen missed.
Hood still working on its forward fire control, so the front guns had to fire using the forward local director. The confusion nearly caused a misfire, but this was narrowly avoided by the quick thinking of one sailor. (Rules note: if a natural 20 is rolled in an attempt to straddle a target with a salvo, it is possible for the firing ship to cause a critical hit on itself. Luckily the Hood avoided this.)
Bismarck just missed straddling the Hood.
Prince of Wales missed the Bismarck.
The secondary guns were now just in range for the Hood and Bismarck, but all missed.
Ships continued to close the range slowly.
Hood completed temporary repairs to its forward fire control. This showed immediate results, with the Hood again pounding the Prinz Eugen; knocking out ‘B’ turret and inflicting more hull damage.
Prinz Eugen had a shell glance off ‘A’ turret of the Hood, but not enough damage to affect it firing.
Prince of Wales finally hit the Bismarck, but only caused minor damage on the heavily armoured ship (a mere 2 hull points damage out of a starting total of 90 hull points).
The Bismarck again missed.
The British were now running parallel to the Germans, but with the Germans slightly ahead.
The Bismarck hit the Prince of Wales with its 15″ guns, causing some minor hull damage. The secondaries were in range, but failed to find their target. The Hood caused similar damage to the Bismarck. The Prince of Wales replied to the Bismarck by gaining a critical hit. Fortunately for the Bismarck the shell did not penetrate, but it did knock out the German secondary fire control.
The Prinz Eugen just missed the Hood.
Crossing the T
The Germans were trying to pull ahead of the British in an attempt to ‘Cross the T’.
This is the desired position for any combat ship, where it is at 90 degrees to the enemy ship and crossing the enemy’s bow or stern. Think of the friendly ship along the top of the ‘T’ and the enemy ship along the base of the ‘T’. This gives four advantages:
1. As the enemy is to the side (abeam in naval parlance), the friendly ship can fire broadsides, bringing all primary guns to bear on the enemy.
2. Hits are more likely to be caused on the enemy because the salvoes have the whole length of the enemy ship to land on.
3. As the enemy is pointing directly at or directly away, it can only reply with either the forward guns or the rear guns.
4. At long and medium range, hits are less likely to be caused by the enemy because their salvoes come in from a high trajectory and only have the width (beam) of the ship to land on. It is different at short range, because the trajectory of the shells is flatter, since the profile of the ship provides the target area.
The Prince of Wales slowed to match the Hood and both British ships veered to port to try and stop the German ships from ‘crossing the T’. The big ships were now at close range for their main guns.
The Hood took advantage of this, landing 4 of its shells. The first turned out to be a dud. But the smile of relief on the German captain faded as the second shell found its way into the forward magazine. The explosion rocked the mighty battleship. Due to clever design of the blast doors, the explosion of the magazine was partly contained. But it twisted the hull, causing 35 hull damage and stopping ‘X’ turret and some secondary guns to stop working. The other 2 shells added to the destruction, along with a shell from the Prince of Wales. As the damage control reports came in, the Bismarck’s captain found the ship badly damaged with only 29.5 out of 90 hull points left, 2 main turrets out of action, no forward magazine and some damaged secondary guns.
But there was still plenty of firepower, plus all the command and control systems were functioning. The German ship could still make 23 knots. The Bismarck replied with a 15″ shell hitting the Hood, causing 5 damage. Some of the 5.9″ secondaries hit the Prince of Wales, but only did limited damage to ‘B’ turret.
With accurate shooting, the Prinz Eugen landed 2 shells on the Hood, but only slightly damaged ‘Y’ turret as the 8″ shells did not penetrate its armour plating.
It was make or break time for the Germans. If they could land some good hits, they might yet be able to turn the battle against the British.
The Prinz Eugen continued at just over 30 knots and began a port turn to cross in front of the Hood. The Bismarck began to drop behind as it slowed to 23 knots. The Prinz Eugen hit the Hood with both primary and secondary guns, knocking out the secondary fire controls and slowing the British battlecruiser with some damage to the engine room.
All during the battle the technicians had been trying to fix the inoperative ‘A’ turret on the Prince of Wales. But the difficult conditions and the vibrations from firing the other turrets caused a further problem. Despite their best efforts, there was no longer a way to fix ‘A’ turret until the fight was over.
In their keenness to wreak revenge on the Hood, the gunners on the Bismarck nearly crippled the main guns on their own ship (they rolled 20 to straddle which means own hit). Although managing to avoid any significant damage (hit location was on an already destroyed turret), the distraction stopped them from landing shells on the nearby Hood.
The secondary guns of the Bismarck finally had better luck, with shells slicing through cables on the Prince of Wales in several places. This knocked out all their electrical systems, including all fire control systems and their radar. The Prince of Wales was now unable to fire any guns. The captain called for an emergency turn to port, to put some distance between himself and the German ships whilst the crew frantically tried to repair their toothless tiger.
With the Prince of Wales out of action for the moment, the crew of the Bismarck finally felt they were in with a chance.
However, the Hood was in full fighting mode now and sealed the fate of the battle. The darling of the British fleet fired another very effective salvo. Three shells successfully exploded into the Bismarck. The first and second shells found weak points in the already damaged hull (both doing double damage). The third shell did further damage and started a fire (leaving the Bismarck with less than 5 hull points out of a starting 90). The Bismarck slowed markedly as the icy water poured in through rents in the hull. Men were fleeing for their lives and others bravely tightening compartment doors as the big battleship slowly settled lower in the unfriendly water.
|Hood (foreground) veers around the sinking Bismarck as the Prinz Eugen makes off in the distance.
Before it could go out of control, the well trained German crew quickly doused the fire on the Bismarck. The other damage control crew on the Bismarck had been working tirelessly. They had now fixed the secondary fire control. Unfortunately, several 5.9″ shells were near misses and the only 5.9″ shell that hit the Hood failed to explode.
The Prinz Eugen continued the turn to port, hoping to put themselves in an ideal position against the oncoming two British ships, but instead of holding their course, the Prince of Wales had veered hard to port and the Hood had turned to starboard.
Lacking manoeuvrability, the Bismarck could only watch as the Hood turned to starboard to ‘cross the T’ astern the German ship. Despite only being able to bring ‘Y’ turret to bear, 2 German 15″ shells tore into the aft of the Hood, damaging the engine room (and 10 hull points damage).
But any joy was short lived. The Hood put 4 more 15″ shells into the dying Bismarck. No guns were left to return fire with the British. A new blaze started aft as men ran for safety. The ship was dead in the water and the signal to abandon ship was given.
The German Admiral radioed the Prinz Eugen to escape while it could, but bravely stayed on the shattered bridge, refusing to abandon ship himself. The German heavy cruiser continued on the course it had so fortuitously chosen while heavy eyes watched the pride of the German fleet in its death throes. But the dying Bismarck refused to slip beneath the waves and helped their compatriots in two ways. By damaging the engine room of the Hood, it had slowed the British ship so that it could no longer catch the Prinz Eugen. And the Bismarck was now acting as a shield between the Hood and the Prinz Eugen whilst the German sped out of range of the Hood’s dangerous guns.
The Prince of Wales woes continued. Instead of being able to repair the electrical problems, the damage control party had found that the damage was permanent. The Prince of Wales turned back towards the Hood to help them with the rescue of German sailors as the Prinz Eugen sped southward.
The Suffolk and Norfolk arrived from the north over an hour later. The Bismarck refused to sink of its own accord, so the British were forced to finish the job with torpedoes. The German sailors jeered in a friendly manner at their rescuers when the first two spreads of torpedoes failed to sink the Bismarck. But finally the third spread finished the job.
As the Bismarck finally disappeared below the grey seas, the British capital ships turned slowly for Scapa Flow and repairs, escorted by the Suffolk and Norfolk. Even the British cruisers had no chance of catching the Prinz Eugen now, and were needed to protect the Hood and Prince of Wales from marauding U-boats.
The crew of the Hood could hold their head high, with tales of magnificent shooting. But the Prince of Wales only had tales of disaster after disaster. The crew hung their heads, wondering if the Prince was going to be an unlucky ship.
This was quite a different result to the first Battle of Denmark Strait. The early hits on the Bismarck did only a little damage, so even though the Bismarck was not hitting anything, it really did not matter at that stage. Only the Prinz Eugen was copping it, as you might expect with it up against two larger ships.
The critical hit on the forward magazine caused a lot of damage to the Bismarck, but it was still dangerous at that stage. It looked heavily in favour of the British, but with the Prince of Wales shortly to retire it was still anybody’s game.
The Bismarck appeared to hit well enough in the following turn, but the Hood did much better, and this doomed the German battleship. There was some consolation for the Germans late in the game from holding up the Hood and allowing the Prinz Eugen to escape.
This is a result that the British might have expected historically (until the point where the Hood actually blew up).
The game was again enjoyable and the action flowed well. The rules work really well so far and we will soon be trying torpedoes, submarines and aircraft.