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The Battle of Fairlight Cove was a huge, multiplayer Aeronef game based on a raid on Fairlight Cove in southern England. A large combined force from the Central European Powers is attempting a daring daylight bombing raid, opposed by the British Grand Fleet along with some allied help.

The Central Powers fleet is based around a core of German and French forces. Two German battleship squadrons accompany a large number of dirigible ("dig") bombers, while a French battleship squadron is on hand to escort a smaller number of bombers and bombardment monitors. To cover the flanks, the Austro-Hungarian Empire has committed a large battle squadron and the Benelux allies have been bullied into providing a force.

1st German Battle Squadron (Ian Proudlock)
Blücher class battleships "Lützow" and "Derrflinger"
Köln class cruisers "Roon" and "Yorck"
Five escort vessels
Six Torpedo Nef

2nd German Battle Squadron (Tony Francis)
Markgraf class battleships "König Albert" and "Friedrich der Grosse"
Emden class cruisers "Emden" and "Dresden"
Five escort vessels
Six Torpedo Nef

German Bomber Group (Steve Tucker)
Schleswig-Holstein class Dig battleships "Schleswig-Holstein", "Schliesen" and "Pommern"
Dig cruiser "Hessen"
Brandenburg class Dig Destroyers "Wörth", "Hindenburg" and "Oldenburg"
Seydlitz class Dig Bombers "Siegfried", "Beowulf", "Ægir" and "Odin"
Five smaller Dig bombers
Three Fixed Wing Bombers

French Battle Squadron (Barry Perrin)
Loire class battleships "Seine", "Aisne" and "Rhône"
Jeanne la Pucelle class cruisers "Victor Hugo" and "Jules Ferry"
Six destroyers (including two torpedo destroyers)
Four escorts

French Bomber Group (Ian Fitzpatrick)
Charlamagne class Battlecruiser "Gaulois"
L'Epee class Cruiser "Lyons"
Formidabile class Light Cruiser "D'Estrees"
Les Arcs class carriers "Arromanches" and "Bearn" each carrying four fighter groups
Suffren class Bombardment Monitors "Aigues-Mortes", "Carcassonne", "Montpelier", "Nîmes" and "Sètes"
Two Descartes class escorts
Three small Dig Bombers
Five Hussard class Torpedo Nef
Two Perigeux class Patrol Nef

Austro-Hungarian Battle Squadron (Steve Tucker)
Extended Ferdinand class battleship "Viribus Unitas"
Ferdinand Max class battleships "Erzherzog Friedrich", "Erzherzog Ferdinand Max", "Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf"
Prinz Eugen class cruisers "Lakroma" and "Miramar"
Three Danube class Escorts
Two Rocket Squadrons (each one Honved class Large Rocket Nef, three Lussin class Rocket Nef)

Combined Benelux Allies Squadron (Alan Ockleford)
De Ruyter class Heavy Cruiser "Jacob van Heemskerk" (Dutch)
Zeesland class Destroyers "Cornelis van Tromp" and "Johan van Galen" (Dutch)
Capellan class Patrol Cutter "Ettlebruck" (Luxembourg)
Liege class Heavy Cruiser "Vlaanderen" (Belgian)
Weilingen class Destroyers "Westdiep" and "Wandelaar" (Belgian)
Three Oostende class Frigates (Belgian)
Six Godetia class Torpedo Nef (Belgian)
Small Dig Bomber "Aster" (Belgian)

1st Home Fleet Squadron (Phil Richards)
Battleships "Benbow" and "Agincourt"
Exeter class cruisers "Argonaut" and "Conqueror"
Two escort flotillas (two destroyers, seven escorts)
Torpedo squadron (flotilla leader plus three Stingray class torpedo nef)

2nd Home Fleet Squadron (Trevor Pearless)
Three battleships
Two Rawalpindi class cruisers
Six escorts

Home Fleet Battlecruiser Squadron (Mike Proudlock)
Britannia class battlecruisers "Cardiff" and "Edinburgh"
Battlecruiser "Audacious"
Destroyer flotilla (three Arethusas)
Two escort flotillas (two destroyers, seven escorts)
Torpedo squadron (flotilla leader plus three Stingray class torpedo nef)

Home Fleet Carrier Squadron (Brian Simons)
Fighter carrier "Albion" carrying six fighter groups
Rawalpindi class cruisers "Kimmerol" and "Jonquil"
Engadine class Dig cruisers "Venus" and "Tarantella"
Escort flotilla (four Ospreys)
Patrol flotilla (Flotilla leader and four small patrol Nef)

Brazilian Battlefleet (Andy King)
Battleship "Anselmo Reschini"
Battlecruiser "Sao Paulo"
Heavy Cruiser "Minas Gerais"
Dig Cruiser "Gustavo Borelli"
Four Gustavo Sampaio class Light Cruisers
Two Amazonas class Dig Destroyers
Six Pernambuco class Frigates

US Northern Atlantic Squadron (Steve Oram)
Battleships "Maine" and "Texas"
Kentucky class Dig Cruiser "Alabama"
Michigan class large destroyers "Boston", "Philadelphia" and "Michigan"
Two Des Moines class Frigates
Four Tallahassee class Patrol Nef
Two Hunley class Torpedo Nef

US Southern Atlantic Squadron (John Lambert)
Texas class Battleships "Vermont" and "Florida"
Dig Cruiser "Kentucky"
Michigan class large destroyers "Washington", "Cleveland" and "Miami"
Two Des Moines class Frigates
Four Tallahassee class Patrol Nef
Two Hunley class Torpedo Nef

The main targets of the Central Powers were Fort Fairlight, a large (13-gun) fortress east of Hastings, and the harbour of Fairlight Cove. In addition, there are several other smaller forts and secondary targets such as railways bridges and a lighthouse. The table for the game was 12' by 6' and the game played across it. The English coast was set up along the northern edge of the board with several small islands off the coastline (before anyone else says it, yes we know that the Sussex coast isn't really like this !).

The four British fleets all allocated a single squadron of escorts to each of the four smaller fortifications. These were the only Allied vessels to start onboard. Each of these forts had a heliograph station used to signal for reinforcements when enemy vessels were spotted.

The Central Powers started with the Benelux fleet assigned to the far left flank with the French Battle Squadron next. The 1st German Battle Squadron was assigned to the furthest advanced of the smaller forts, with the French Bomber force next, aiming for the two rear forts. The German Dig bombers came next with the intention of advancing to the coast and then rolling westwards, flattening targets as they went. The 2nd German Battle Squadron and the Austro-Hungarians were kept in reserve (the two players concerned were late !).

The game occurred so long ago I've misplaced the notes and, age being what it is, can't remember too many details ! You'll have to make do with lots of lovely pictures of over two hundred 'Nef in action ...

The game was effectively a victory for the Allies, although this is more because the game didn't advance fast enough and therefore the Central Powers had no opportunity to get to their main objectives and start scoring points for destroying ground targets. That said, the German Dig bomber fleet started too far to the east and thus had too much distance to cover to reach any ground targets (in the number of turns played it would have been physically impossible for the larger Digs to have reached the coastline at maximum speed, even had they started further west).

In terms of casualties amongst the combatants, the result was much closer. Over 60 Nef were sent crashing into the sea, with the score being 36-28 in the Allies favour - still a marginal Allied victory.

The only slight disappointment about the game is that the bigger craft didn't really get into the battle. Most of the fighting was done by the smaller craft since they were able to get into range quickest, but they succeeded in slowing the action down and ensuring that the battleships took even longer to get into range. None of the very biggest craft (the class-1s) were destroyed, the Gaulois and the Texas being the most stricken. The largest craft to go down were the Belgian Vlaanderen and the French Lyon, both class-2.

Highlights included the epic scrap between Steve Oram's US Northern Atlantic Fleet and Alan Ockleford's Dutch-Belgians. The low countries took a beating, including the loss of the Belgian flagship Vlaanderen, but the much stronger US forces didn't get away unscathed and both battleships were damaged, the Texas severely. Late in the day, the Austro-Hungarians and German 2nd Squadron sent their torpedo and rocket groups charging into the flank of the US Southern Fleet which was also heavily pounded, losing several destroyers and cruiser-sized vessels.

The heaviest vessels (the British battlesquadrons of the Home Fleet and the massive German battleships) didn't really get involved, with the game not quite lasting long enough. The Central Powers had a lot of firepower massing on the eastern flank (two German and four Austro-Hungarian battleships) which would probably have torn through the remnants of the US Southern Fleet and then into the British battlecruisers and carriers. In the centre, the initial French sortie was beaten back with the two heavy Home Fleet squadrons (five battleships) and the Brazilians (one battleship and one battlecruiser) facing off against a German squadron (two battleships) and the three French Loire class battleships - this could have gone either way.

War being what it is, the Central Powers are bound to return for another attack on the fort. Next time they'll probably be fewer attacking craft (and fewer defenders) with not so many smaller Nef zipping about cluttering up the table. What we want to see are battleships facing off against one another !

The British 1st Home Fleet Squadron, Battlecruiser Squadron and Carrier Squadron were painted by Phil Richards. The 2nd Home Fleet Squadron was painted by Trevor Pearless. Both US Fleets were painted by Steve Oram. The Brazilians were painted by Andy King. The entire Central Powers forces (German, French, Austro-Hungarian, Belgian and Dutch) were painted by Tony Francis. In total the British and allies fielded 105 craft plus fighters, the Central Powers 120

Aeronef is a game of aerial combat between huge flying battleships, airships and fixed wing aircraft set in an alternative history of the late 19th Century. The rules are published by Wessex Games who also make a number of supporting miniatures. A second and much larger source of miniatures is Brigade Models who make over 110 different Aeronef craft including just about all of the models used in this game.

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