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Heligoland


The action was a re-fight of an historical scenario, namely the First Battle of Heligoland on 28th August 1914. This was the second surface clash in the North Sea theatre and the first major surface action of the war.

We refought the whole scenario over four meetings. I had hoped we would do it in two, but the large amount of close in fighting made for a much more hard fought action than the real battle.

The action began with two British Flotillas under Andy's overall command driving through the German outposts for Helgoland, with 2 Light Cruisers and 35 Destroyers in close company. These drove in the German scouting Destroyers without causing any damage, but an outgoing Flotilla under Steve then launched an ill fated close in counterattack rather than retire on their supports. With only 13 destroyers, the Germans were overwhelmed by the more powerful British Destroyers and their supporting Cruisers (Steve kindly left me to extricate them as umpire). However, the 1st DF under Trevor, which bore the brunt of the counterattack had six of it's boats disabled during the action. As a result Trevor was detached to return to home with his Flotilla while Andy pursued the Germans towards Heligoland.

Nine of the German Destroyers were sunk in the attack and subsequent retreat, with a German Minesweeping leader and Minesweeping TBD (which went down under Alex's command pluckily pouring shells from her lone 4pdr gun into a British Destroyer Division as it swept past) also getting caught up in the carnage as they fell back. Finally, the Germans received support from three of their Light Cruisers as they neared Heligoland and the British lost one Destroyer to their gunfire and another to a torpedo from one of them. Andy suffered another two Destroyers disabled, one of which was heroically rescued by the Destroyer Laertes from under the very guns of Heligoland (which fortunately for the British, were unable to fire because of the low cloud).


Arethusa, with 1st Division of the 3rd Flotilla at the start of the action

In accordance with their orders, the British now fell back to the west, picking up their other disabled destroyer as they went. The German Cruiser Frauenlob went after them with guns blazing (a rather rash move by Barry here) and narrowly avoided a heavy torpedo counterattack from the british destroyers, only to be brought to a halt by some lucky shooting from the Arethusa (flying Andy's Broad Pennant as Commodore in charge), almost it's last shot before losing sight in fact. Trevor was then able to finish it off with a torpedo from the lurking British submarine E 9.

A lull of just over an hour now ensued as the British slowly fell back towing their multitude of crippled destoyers and the Germans began to bring up their reinforcements.

Andy also requested reinforcements from his supports and was joined by four more Light Cruisers. Low on both ammunition and torpedos this was none too soon as he was attacked by two German Light Cruisers and a half flotilla of six fresh destroyers under my command. These were badly outgunned by the British 6" Cruisers and the Stettin took a terrible beating from their concentated gunfire. However, the Cruisers succeeded in drawing away the British Cruisers from the damaged destroyers and a destroyer attack on them put a torpedo into one of the ships being towed (the Lydiard).

However, Vice Admiral Beatty (in the shape of Ian) now turned up, just as the German Light cruiser commander arrived in his flagship the Coln to order a retreat from the now overwhelming British forces. The British battlecruisers were reluctant to close and only succeeded in landing a couple of 13.5" hits on the withdrawing Stettin at the limits of visibility. The retiring German destroyers fought a short action with Beattys escorting destroyer division, disabling one of them and putting a torpedo into Beatty's flag, the Lion, as it turned to retire (which did not hit in a particularly vital spot).

The battle was over. However, 20 minutes later, the crippled British destroyer Lydiard finally sank and the severely damaged Stettin engaged in a race against time to reach port and the help of pumping tugs before she foundered from the battle damage received.

The British fleet relieved a lot of on the job training in towing the many damaged ships home (not difficult as it happened in the near flat calm).

Due to the nearness of the German ports she was able to do so (you can see from the report below that she would have foundered 3 and a quarter hours after the action ended, but she only needed just over 2 hours to get back to assistance, despite gradually sinking by the bow, since her engines and boilers were still intact).

So here is the final battle damage result as generated by the computer :

First Battle of Heligoland projection based on damage as at 11:15 August 28, 1914:

 3rd DF (Andy, assistance from Craig and Ian)
Lark has already sunk
Laforey has already sunk

 4th Scouting Group (Me, Barry and Mark W)
Frauenlob has already sunk

 2nd Half Flotilla (Steve on the way in, me on the way out)
G 193 has already sunk
G 194 has already sunk
G 196 has already sunk

 3rd Minesweeping Division (me and Alex)
D 8 has already sunk
T 34 has already sunk

 5th Flotilla (Steve on the way in, me on the way out)
V 1 has already sunk
S 13 has already sunk
G 11 has already sunk
G 10 has already sunk
G 9 has already sunk
G 7 has already sunk

Result of progressive flooding in next 48 hours as follows:

28 Aug 11:36:00 - Lydiard (3rd DF) has foundered as a result of progressive flooding
28 Aug 12:30:00 - Stettin speed restricted to 7.5 knots by immersion of ship forward
28 Aug 14:30:00 - Stettin (Leader Cruiser 2nd U-Boat Flotilla, under me throughout) has foundered as a result of progressive flooding
(result ignored as vessel able to reach port before foundering)
All remaining ships have flooding under control, abandoned ships will burn out

Damage to surviving ships as at 30 Aug 11:15:00 is as follows:

 1st DF (Trevor)
Ferret damaged, there are 52 tons of flood water on board, which is 5% of total buoyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, Engine Room, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action
Forester damaged, there are 49 tons of flood water on board, which is 4% of total buoyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 24.3 knots by machinery damage, Aft Conning Position, out of action, Boiler Room A, out of action
Druid damaged, 12pdr Starboard Gun, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action
Defender damaged, there are 36 tons of flood water on board, which is 3% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, Boiler Room B, out of action, Engine Room, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action
Goshawk damaged, there are 254 tons of flood water on board, which is 25% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 4" Bow Gun, out of action, 12pdr Starboard Gun, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, Bridge, out of action, Aft Conning Position, out of action, Boiler Room A, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Boiler Room B, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action
Lizard damaged, there are 25 tons of flood water on board, which is 2% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, Engine Room, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action
Lapwing damaged, there are 248 tons of flood water on board, which is 24% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 4" Bow Gun, out of action, 4" Stern Gun, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, Bridge, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action, Boiler Room A, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Boiler Room B, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Engine Room, out of action
Phoenix damaged, there are 241 tons of flood water on board, which is 24% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 12pdr Port Gun, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, Aft Conning Position, out of action, Boiler Room A, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Boiler Room B, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action

 1st BCS and escort (Ian)
Lion damaged, there are 1484 tons of flood water on board, which is 6% of total bouyancy reserve
Jackal damaged, there are 96 tons of flood water on board, which is 9% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, Engine Room, out of action

 3rd DF (Andy with assistance from Craig and Ian)
Arethusa damaged, there are 451 tons of flood water on board, which is 10% of total bouyancy reserve, 6" Bow Gun, out of action, 4" Port Number 1 Gun, out of action, 4" Port Number 3 Gun, out of action, 4" Starboard Number 3 Gun, out of action, 6" Stern Gun, out of action, 21" Port Deck Twin TT, out of action, 21" Starboard Deck Twin TT, out of action
Lance damaged, there are 56 tons of flood water on board, which is 5% of total bouyancy reserve
Landrail damaged, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, Bridge, out of action
Lawford damaged, there are 230 tons of flood water on board, which is 21% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, Aft Conning Position, out of action, Boiler Room A, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Boiler Room B, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Bridge, out of action, Engine Room, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action
Louis damaged, there are 40 tons of flood water on board, which is 3% of total bouyancy reserve, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action
Laertes damaged, there are 520 tons of flood water on board, which is 48% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 0 knots by machinery damage, strain on forward bulkheads limiting speed to 15 knots, 4" Midships Gun, out of action, 21" Aft Deck TT, out of action, 21" Forward Deck TT, out of action, Boiler Room A, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Boiler Room B, steam line destroyed in mount, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action

 1st LCS (Andy)
Birmingham damaged, there are 19 tons of flood water on board, which is 0% of total bouyancy reserve
Liverpool damaged, there are 577 tons of flood water on board, which is 13% of total bouyancy reserve, 18" TT Beam, out of action, 4" Port Number 3 Gun, out of action, 4" Port Number 4 Gun, out of action

 2nd Scouting Group (Me, Barry, Mark W)
Stralsund damaged, there are 261 tons of flood water on board, which is 5% of total bouyancy reserve, 10.5cm Port Number 5 Gun, out of action, 10.5cm Port Number 6 Gun, out of action, 10.5cm Starboard Number 2 Gun, out of action, 10.5cm Starboard Number 3 Gun, out of action, Aft Control Position, out of action, Wireless Medium Range Type, out of action

 1st Half Flotilla (Me, last phase of action only)
V 187 damaged, there are 85 tons of flood water on board, which is 14% of total bouyancy reserve
V 191 damaged, there are 179 tons of flood water on board, which is 30% of total bouyancy reserve, 8.8cm Bow Gun, out of action
G 197 damaged, there are 133 tons of flood water on board, which is 18% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 29.8 knots by machinery damage, 50cm Midships Aft Deck TT, out of action, 50cm Starboard Forward Deck TT, out of action, 8.8cm Stern Gun, out of action, Boiler Room C, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action
V 189 damaged, there are 70 tons of flood water on board, which is 11% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 29.8 knots by machinery damage, Aft Conning Position, out of action, Boiler Room C, out of action
V 190 damaged, there are 140 tons of flood water on board, which is 23% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 26.3 knots by machinery damage, 50cm Midships Aft Deck TT, out of action, 50cm Port Forward Deck TT, out of action, 50cm Starboard Forward Deck TT, out of action, Engine Room B, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action

 5th Flotilla (Steve on the way in, me on the way out)
G 12 damaged, there are 183 tons of flood water on board, which is 33% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 28.7 knots by machinery damage, 8.8cm Stern Gun, out of action, Boiler Room B, out of action
V 2 damaged, there are 183 tons of flood water on board, which is 35% of total bouyancy reserve, top speed restricted to 26.3 knots by machinery damage, 50cm Midships Aft Deck TT, out of action, Bridge, out of action, Engine Room B, out of action
V 3 damaged, there are 14 tons of flood water on board, which is 2% of total bouyancy reserve, 50cm Midships Aft Deck TT, out of action, Bridge, out of action, Wireless Short Range Type, out of action
V 6 damaged, there are 38 tons of flood water on board, which is 7% of total bouyancy reserve, 50cm Midships Aft Deck TT, out of action

Grand Fleet has lost 2740 tons of ships
Hochseeflotte has lost 11821 tons of ships (but amended to 8396 as Stettin saved)

This means that the result is a tactical British victory. To turn this into a strategic victory, the British needed to sink at least two cruisers, which they came very near to doing !

League table after two actions

Points are gained for normal load tonnage share of ships sunk (apportioned on damage inflicted) and lost for tonnage share of ships under your command (apportioned on period under your command). All German tonnages count double, due to the much higher unit value of the ships compared to the huge Royal Navy.

Andy

14990 points

Mark Woodger

307 points

Trevor

290 points

Alex

121 points

Dean

0 points

Brian

0 points

Ian

0 points

Craig

-450 points

Me

-3681 points (I seem to keep getting left holding the sinking/crippled/doomed baby as people say "I need to go now" - who'd be an umpire ?)

Barry

-3995 points

Steve

-7581 points

Summary of the real action

The real action was a resounding success for the British, thanks to good leadership and some calculated risk taking by Beatty.

The initial drive to Helgoland resulted in a gun duel between the British and German flotillas supported by Stettin and Frauenlob. This resulted in the sinking of V 187 and heavy damage to D 8, T 33, Frauenlob and Arethusa, which was reduced to 10 knots. V 1, T 35, Goshawk and Stettin were also hit.

The Germans got their cruisers to sea as they became available and closed in on the retiring British Flotillas, whilst their own destroyers returned to harbour.

As they closed in the British destroyers made repeated attacks to drive them off as their numbers increased. However, the retreating flotillas were now reinforced, first by the 1st LCS and then by the Battlecruisers, which Beatty had decided to bring in to the Outer Bight to support the badly damaged Arethusa, despite a perceived risk of submarine attack.

The Mainz was sunk by a combination of a destroyer torpedo hit and 1st LCS gunfire and at close range the Battlecruisers sank both the Ariadne and Cln with gunfire. Lion, Laurel, Liberty and Laertes were damaged, but only Laertes was badly damaged, requiring a tow home.

The German ships had individually fought well, but their Cruiser counter-attack on the retreating British Flotillas had been badly co-ordinated and they fell easy prey to the supporting Battlecruisers, whose presence was unsuspected. On the British side some poor pre-battle co-ordination had to be overcome (British submarines nearly attacked the 1st LCS).

This sharp defeat had a severe psychological effect on the Germans and caused a further increase in caution by the Naval command, making them even more reluctant to risk their ships in surface action. The news of the action was well received in Britain, at a time of serious reverses on land in France and was taken as renewed confirmation of the invincibility of the Royal Navy.

...and finally

I am making some tweaks to tune some of the battle simulator routines, fix a couple of very minor bugs that surfaced (amazing how playtesting throws up things that test plans do not) and prepare for the next refight in the North Sea campaign, for which the ships are already painted and ready for action........

Mark Harris


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