by Mark Harris
Action off the North Hinder – 1st May 1915
This action was recreated as part of an ongoing WW1 campaign at Maidstone Wargames, in the centenary of the real action.
The British force was led by Jon Roche in command of an Armed Trawler Division of four vessels (the leader Barbados, plus Columbia, Chirsit and Miura), later reinforced by a Division of four L Class Destroyers (Laforey, Lark, Lawford and Leonidas). John Legg drew the short straw, taking command of two A1 class Torpedo Boats of the Flanders flotilla (the A2 and the A6). As umpire I took command of the armed trawler Columbia.
This scenario is very hard for the Germans – to win they need to get lucky torpedo hits to take out the Armed Trawlers before the British Destroyers turn up – against which they have no chance of survival and little chance of damaging, let alone sinking.
The Action Report
All ships started in their actual positions as at 15.10 GMT on 1st May 1915. The German TBs were from a new Flotilla just forming in Flanders and had sortied to rescue the crew of a downed seaplane – as well as launch an opportunity attack on the four British Armed Trawlers operating against Flanders Submarines around the North Hinder Light Vessel.
The action commenced as the German TBs had closed from the WSW to within about 750 yards of the Trawlers Columbia and Barbados, before breaking out their ensigns and commencing action. The presence of TBs in the area was not suspected by the British and the Trawlers were caught by surprise by what they must have assumed were friendly/neutral craft up to that point.
The A2 launched 2 torpedoes at Columbia in the first move, but they missed and a short range artillery duel commenced as the Germans manoeuvred for further torpedo shots and also attempted to ram their opponents. Another opportunity was seized by the A6 to launch a torpedo at the Barbados when she got into a good position, but this too missed. After a few moves the A6 succeeded in catching the Columbia squarely on the starboard side and the two boats becoming locked together. However, the tiny A6 caused only limited damage to Columbia. Unfortunately this was the side the Columbia had her 3pdr mounted and the A6 took several 3pdr hits at point blank range as she backed away, which wiped out her bridge control, leaving her steering on engines for the rest of the game. The A6 also took a 3pdr shell in the Fore Boiler Room, slowing her speed. Meanwhile the other British Trawlers, Chirsit and Miura, had come up to the scene of the fighting.
However, at this point the Germans made out the shapes of destroyers coming in fast from the west, which were soon made out to be British. This was a Division of modern destroyers from 3rd Flotilla which had been sent out many hours earlier to search for a German submarine (the UB6) that had sunk the destroyer Recruit that morning. They were already headed for the scene of the North Hinder action at high speed before it commenced!
An attempt to run proved futile as the Destroyers closed down on the lagging A6 and commenced firing, whilst the British trawlers began to drop out of range, Columbia having expended all of her ammunition. Lark closed in to close range and her first hit struck the A6 on the waterline abreast the engine room, breaking her back and sending her to the bottom. With only 19 rounds of 4pdr ammo remaining and no torpedoes the A2 crew opened the sea cocks and abandoned ship. Fifty minutes of game time had elapsed since the action commenced.Near the end of the action with Lark closing in on the tiny doomed A6 in centre, the North Hinder Light Vessel is at top of shot and the trawler division to left, A2 and Laforey to right
Action off the North Hinder result based on damage as at 16:01 May 1, 1915
A 2 is being scuttled (all points to Jon R)
A 6 has already sunk (90% of points to Jon R, 10% to Mark H)
Result of progressive flooding and machinery damage in next 48 hours as follows:
Damage to surviving ships as at 3 May 16:01:00 is as follows:
Royal Navy has lost 0 tons of ships
Marine-Korps Flandern has lost 214 tons of ships
Scores are based on tonnage sunk or lost by players (with ships sunk shared according to damage inflicted by the different players) with German losses counting double:
That leaves the result for the campaign to date after 6 scenarios is as follows:
Mark H +93847 Andy K +13060 Mike P +11339 Alan O +350 Mark W +307 Alex M +121 Colin C 0 Brian S 0 Dean L 0 David S 0 Ian F 0 Brandt 0 John Legg -428 Jon R -1256 Barry P -3995 Trevor P -9538 Craig D -14481 Steve T -36785 Bob C -52540
How does this compare to the real action?
The Columbia was hit by a torpedo in the first few minutes on 1st May and sank within one minute, only one hand surviving to later be picked up by the Miura. The Germans then split up to attack the three remaining trawlers in a 20 minute gun duel, and seem to have fired all 3 of their other torpedoes, but these all missed. There were few shell hits, but the Barbados took some damage and her skipper was wounded. The German TBs also appeared to be hit and the Barbados noted that the A2 briefly seemed to lose headway as a result before getting under way again. The Germans were already starting to head for home when the British Destroyer Division arrived. Once the British had their range, the German crews abandoned ship and opened the seacocks to scuttle them - they stood no chance against the massively superior British destroyers. The British Destroyers closed down and sank them by smothering them with gunfire, assuming the boats to still be manned. It appears that 3 captured crew from Columbia were left below when the Germans abandoned ship, the real reason for A 2 appearing to lose headway earlier being to pick them up perhaps. The British picked up 46 prisoners and 13 German crew were lost including the Flotilla commander, Kapitänleutnant Schoemann.
In this centenary year we remember the crew of HMT Columbia who lost their lives in the action of May 1st 1915BOE, JAKOB OSCAR, Engineman, Royal Naval Reserve
CLARKSON, GEORGE, Warrant Telegraphist, Royal Naval Reserve
CLIVE, ROBERT, Signal Boy, Royal Naval Reserve
DIXON, HARRY, Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve
HAWTHORN, WALTER, Lieut-Commander, Royal Naval Reserve
LADDS, WILLIAM, Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve
LEDGETT, GEORGE, Seaman, Royal Naval Reserve
LOWNIE, ANDREW, Seaman, Royal Naval Reserve
McGUIRE, JAMES, Trimmer, Royal Naval Reserve
NOBLE, PETER, Seaman, Royal Naval Reserve
PORT, GEORGE ALBERT, Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve
SILVESTER, WILLIAM HENRY, Warrant Telegraphist, Royal Naval Reserve
SPENCER, GEORGE HERBERT, Trimmer, Royal Naval Reserve
STANNARD, ARTHUR GEORGE, Engineman, Royal Naval Reserve
TREVOR, ARTHUR LEONARD, Trimmer, Royal Naval Reserve
WAKEHAM, JOHN HENRY, Second Hand, Royal Naval Reserve
Lieutenant-Commander Hawthorn was a Canadian who had volunteered and come to Britain at his own expense to serve in the RN. He was always ready to volunteer for dangerous work and had previously been instrumental in retrieving a live German mine so that it could be taken apart and lessons learned from its construction. For this he had received an Admiralty commendation. The Director of Naval Operations, Rear-Admiral Oliver, wrote on the action report that Hawthorn was “a good officer and a great loss”. The First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher, also noted on the action report that “Hawthorn has been brought to my notice on previous occasions for his good services”. It is likely that Hawthorn was one of the 3 crew the Germans had picked up.
Lest we forget.
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