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Naval Thunder: Battleship Row» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Death of a hero - 13th December 1939 rss

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Tom H
Australia
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Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
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Ajax and Achilles were Greek heroes of the Trojan War.

In the Illiad, Ajax is described as fearless, strong and powerful but also with a very high level of combat intelligence. Ajax commands his Greek army wielding a huge shield made of seven cow-hides with a layer of bronze. Most notably, Ajax is not wounded in any of the battles described in the Iliad, and he is the only principal character on either side who does not receive substantial assistance from any of the gods who take part in the battles.

Achilles was a great warrior in the Greek camp whose most notable feat during the Trojan War was the slaying of the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy. Although the death of Achilles is not presented in the Iliad, he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, who shot him in the heel with an arrow guided by the gods.


Both heroes were the namesakes of two light cruisers which engaged the German pocket battleship Graf Spee in 1939 with the assistance of the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter.

INTRODUCTION
The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle in the Second World War and the first of the Battles of the Atlantic in South American waters. The German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee had been located in the South Atlantic a long time before the war began, and had been commerce raiding after the war began in September 1939.

One of the hunting groups sent by the British Admiralty to search for Graf Spee, comprising three Royal Navy cruisers, HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles (the last from the New Zealand Division), found and engaged their quarry off the estuary of the River Plate close to the coast of Argentina and Uruguay in South America.

On the 13th December, 1939, in the waters off the River Plate the Royal Navy confronts the Kriegsmarine raider.


December 1939, HMS Achilles as seen from HMS Ajax during the Battle of the River Plate.

I decided to refight this historic battle using the Naval Thunder rules for WW2 naval miniatures and 1/3000 navwar minis. The Kriegsmarine win if they escape off the far board edge and sink 2 light cruisers or the Exeter, while the Royal Navy win if they have at least two ships afloat and the Graf Spee suffers a severe list or is reduced to less than a speed of 3.

EARLY GAME
The Royal Navy set up as two forces – both blocking the progress of the Graf Spee. Steaming at full speed to close range, the Ajax leads the Achilles and lays smoke to hide her sister ship – perhaps allowing time and protecting her as they close.


Opening positions - Royal Navy at the top of screen - Spee at the bottom
The Graf Spee turns slight so she crosses the Royal Navy light cruisers T – making shots harder to hit, but increasing the chance of a penetration. Then orders to the engine room – full speed ahead! The German pocket battleship uses her larger 11”guns to target the Ajax. Accurate fire starts to knock the lighter Ajax about with the loss of one of her forward turrets.



Shells from the Exeter and Ajax are largely ineffective on the heavier German ship. The Achilles hides in the smoke behind the Ajax, waiting to dash out when in effective range to damage the Graf Spee.

MID GAME
Both sides close, turning to bring more turrets and guns to bear. The Ajax continues to lay smoke to protect the Achilles. Accurate long range fire from the Ajax starts a fire on the Spee which continues to burn for a number of turns adding more damage to the pocket battleship.



Damage is accumulating on the German ship with several secondary turrets being damaged by fire from the Exeter and the Ajax.

The Graf Spee continues to target the Ajax – sensing she is suffering from the close attention by the German 11” guns. Accurate fire from the main German guns results in a bridge and engine room hit – and leaves the Ajax with only a few hull points remaining. Bravely she fights on. Her damage control clear the damage to the bridge and try and restore command.



The smoke laid by the Ajax has now covered the Exeter and the Achilles allowing them to draw even close to the Graf Spee. The fire continues to burn on the Graf Spee – taking up valuable manpower and wearing down her hull points.

While the crew fights the damage on board, continued accurate fire from the Ajax sees two critical hits that take out both the main turrets of the Graf Spee. More gunfire from the Graf Spee results in the loss of all the hull points on the Ajax and she signals abandon ship…. She is going down……



END GAME
Determined to get revenge, the Exeter and Achilles close as quickly as possible with the now largely declawed Graf Spee. Having only a few hull points left the German ship tries to make a run for the Ajax’s smoke.

Too far – too late – the British (and New Zealand) ships launch torpedoes and fire their guns at the cornered foe. The Graf Spee secondary guns target the Achilles to try and wear her down quickly. The Royal Navy guns deliver the coup de grace that see Captain Langsdorff order the ship to be abandoned.




EPILOGUE

As the smoke clears from the final gunfire – the Graf Spee lies on her side burning as crew and lifeboats flee her. The Achilles and Exeter pick up survivors from the Ajax and the Graf Spee.

The Ajax certainly put up an heroic fight. She took virtually all the heavier Graf Spee’s fire and managed to dish out a lot of accurate fire in return. Giving her opponent a very bloody nose. Today she certainly lived up to her name and deserved her battle honours.

Coded radio signals back to London. Celebratory drinks back in Whitehall tonight. First Sealord Winston Churchill offers cigars all round.
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Pete Belli
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Superb article.

Beautifully photographed.



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Tom H
Australia
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Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
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Thanks Peter - for the kind words and the GG.
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Wendell
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Yellow Springs
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Also, love the special effects!
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Captain Nemo
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Great looking ocean, how was the board painted?
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Tom H
Australia
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Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
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Two coats of paint brushed on. My son helped me pick the colour - I think he got it right!
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Jon
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Marvellous. Simply marvellous. Thanks for sharing this with us.
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