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Subject: AAR: The Battle off Lisbon rss

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Joe Czarnecki
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AAR: Apocalypse of the Panzerschiffe (Part One) Admiral Scheer

On 27 November 2013, The International Brotherhood of Rivet Counters, Local No. 2, ran the Battle off Lisbon.

The date is late 1939; the place is the open Atlantic somewhere west of Lisbon under a brilliant (VisCode 8) sky; Sea State 3 with the wind from the southeast at 12 knots. Allied raider hunting Force L, French ships Dunkerque, Gloire, Montcalm and Georges Leygues is steaming northeasterly at 12 knots when smoke is sighted to the northwest. Contact is made at 20,000 yards with the German panzerschiffe Admiral Scheer steaming southeasterly at 20 knots.

The captain of the Scheer sizes up the situation immediately, making an emergency turn to 90 degrees to starboard, ringing up All Ahead Flank, and ordering the main battery to take the French battlecruiser under fire and the portside secondary battery to fire on the leading light cruiser, Gloire. The 28cm guns score a fire-salvo hit on the Dunkerque, but the 15cm guns cannot obtain a solution on the smaller ship. The big armor-piercing projectile strikes outside the battlecruiser’s belt protection and passes through the ship, causing immediate flooding. Dunkerque’s 33cm counterfire misses the German vessel in its 23-knot swerve.

Scheer’s commander calls for smoke and continues turning another 30 degrees to starboard, with the main battery firing abaft the port beam, scoring another 28cm APC hit on the slowly accelerating Dunkerque. The round slams into the French ship’s belt amidst the 16 knot wash along the ship’s side, but the stout belt absorbs the impact, leaving the belt cracked and indented. As Scheer passes through 25 knots, a 33cm APC shell rips through the superstructure. Astern of Dunkerque the three French light cruisers begin a turn-in-succession to port, seeking to intercept and possibly torpedo the raider; they refrain from firing their 152mm guns to avoid fouling Dunkerque’s range.

Briefly steadying up and attaining 27 knots, the Scheer continues firing on Dunkerque, striking a main battery barbette. Once again the 28cm APC round is outclassed by French armor and the shell erupts in a spray of essentially harmless splinters. As Dunkerque attains 20 knots and comes 30 degrees to port, she finally finds the range and a trio of 33cm CPC rounds slam into the panzerschiffe. One crashes through the deck forward and detonates with a shattering explosion that disables the forward main battery turret. A second round passes through the aft main battery turret and the third passes through the panzerschiffe’s thin belt armor.

A small but dangerous fire ignites in the aft magazine, and water begins to pour into the forecastle and two diesel motor rooms from shell and splinter holes, impairing motor and helm control. Panicked by the hit forward and the fire reported aft, Scheer’s inexperienced young damage control officer mistakenly orders all of the ship’s magazines flooded and Scheer’s guns fall silent.

Scheer’s furious captain belays the flooding orders, dispatches a damage control team to fight the fire, and orders a turn to starboard to get under the smoke screen he has been building, but the ship answers the helm sluggishly and is slowing rapidly. As the pit-log falls through 20 knots, he notes the three light cruisers have nearly completed their turn and are throwing high bow waves. Using the only weapons he has left, he barks out a bearing and orders the portside mount emptied. It’s a wild shot, but there is little else he can do amidst the chaos and the near certainty that his ship is doomed.
Over the next six minutes the Scheer, slowed to 16 knots, swings drunkenly to starboard through 60 degrees and the captain commands the executive officer to personally direct the damage control effort. The fire party aft extinguishes the magazine fire, and the X.O. reaches damage control central, relieves the damage control officer, skillfully counter-floods to keep the ship on an even keel and stops the flooding of the secondary magazines with them only half full. Topside the captain waits impatiently for the French battlecruiser to appear beyond the end of Scheer’s smokescreen, he appears impassive as columns of water fountain steadily around the ship from Dunkerque’s 33cm fire. Obscured by the smoke, Scheer is temporarily spared their impact.

As Dunkerque swings through another 75 degrees of the compass to bring her heavily armed bow toward the fleeing German ship, the progressive flooding from Scheer’s first shell hit reaches the forward boiler room, leaving the engineer unable to push the vessel past 24 knots. Unaware of the magnitude of Scheer’s injuries, the French admiral worries the raider will escape. His subordinate admiral aboard Gloire, seeking to close and use torpedoes has pushed his ships past 30 knots. The billowing funnel smoke disturbs Dunkerque’s fire and no hits are registered.

The respite ends as Dunkerque clears the trailing end of Scheer’s smoke screen and two more rounds crash through Scheer’s belt, this time to starboard, one 33cm round passing through the already wrecked motor rooms and the other detonating in the harbor-service boiler room. Moments later, the desperately hammering diesels stop entirely and an eerie silence descends over the ship. The only sounds are the thudding impacts of shells hitting the water short, the shriek of projectiles passing overhead, the slowing rush of water along the hull and the screams of the wounded. Scheer’s turn and speed slow further.
The captain waits another two agonizing minutes, watching the pit-log fall through 11 knots, then orders the starboard torpedoes launched against the battlecruiser. He knows his first salvo has missed. The weapons have already run too long and Scheer’s commander assumes they missed astern of the accelerating French light cruisers. He holds little hope for this last Parthian shot—the bearing is poor and not chosen with an eye to hitting, but getting the weapons in the water at the first possible moment. No trumped-up Austrian corporal will be able to claim he and his crew didn’t fight to the last round. As the final “eel” splashes into the water abreast Scheer’s 6-knot wake, another 33cm round slams into aft main battery director.

Duty to the Fatherland and its feckless leader discharged, the captain turns to the more important duty to his crew. He passes the word to abandon the helpless vessel, directs the X.O. to open the Kingston valves and lead the men up from below. Stepping to the signal bridge, the captain pulls out his ceremonial uniform dagger and personal cuts the halyard holding the ship’s flag aloft. Continuing aft and down ladders on the port side—not for fear of incoming rounds but in keeping with proper traffic pattern aboard a ship—he trots briskly aft and cuts down the ensign at the stern as well. The ship is barely moving and the drop to the water is half what it should be as men begin to go over the side. The captain directs some of the men to toss over buoyant items and quickly inspects the boats, which look intact at first glance but all sport some splinter holes. None are worth launching, but the captain orders them loosed in their cradles and the oars thrown over the side to use for floatation. The X.O. appears on deck reporting all the men are up from below and both he and the captain quickly tour the ship fore to aft to ensure no one has been left behind topside either before the X.O. goes over the stern. The captain idly notes the firing has stopped, then realizes it has been that way for some time and takes it as a hopeful omen that the frog-eaters will rescue his crew before he goes over the stern and begins swimming away from the settling Scheer. After making good several dozen meters, he joins the X.O. clinging to an oar and looks back.

The panzerschiffe is still on an even keel as water closes over the quarter deck. Only then does the raider roll slowly to starboard as the stern plunges, water rapidly washing over the aft turret as with a series of rumbles, bangs and crashes, the Admiral Scheer goes down by the stern, giving a last view of the port side of the bow before vanishing below. A hissing froth of water, a thin slick of diesel, and a trail of bobbing heads and flotsam are the only marker for the cruiser’s grave. The bottoms of two boats briefly surface, but just as quickly sink. The raider’s captain and X.O. turn their attention to gathering the survivors together and awaiting rescue.

COMMENTARY:

Well, that’s the first time I recall that I ever had to give order “AA.” Of course, it’s also the first time that blowing up, running aground or capsizing hasn’t made it a moot point.
Also, after a number of disappointing experiences with the Dunkerque class (after a spectacular debut riddling the Hood in a Con scenario) it was gratifying to see the ships can do what they were designed to do: kill panzerschiffe.

Note that it took only two turns and one hit for the player commanding Dunkerque to switch from APC to CPC and he still got some pass-throughs. All too often people don’t switch ammunition types when they shoot. If you’re making a lot of port-holes and getting no boom, downgrade! If the chosen ammunition is producing a lot of clangs and getting no boom, upgrade!

The Scheer was crippled so thoroughly and quickly because of the interaction between the tripled Damage Points of DE101A, combined with DE183B, and DE603, 607, 609*, 610 and 614 and the four M6 rolls (two on Turn 3 and two on Turn 4) that resulted from the increased damage. In one turn both main battery turrets and all secondary turrets were out of action. I threw in the unfortunate young damage control officer to explain how this ship wound up with the forward main battery magazine and both secondary magazines flooded, and managed to extinguish the comically small (10-point) DE603 fire (01-10 Kaboom!).

There really wasn’t much of an option as the captain of the panzerschiffe in this scenario. Once you’ve identified this force hunting you, it’s too late. Every one of the enemy ships is faster, and Dunkerque is a lot better armored. So, I did the only thing possible: turned to a heading as nearly reciprocal as possible that would let me use my whole main battery on Dunkerque. If I could do something to lame her so I could out-run her, I might have a chance. Knocking her down to 24 knots would have done the trick if she hadn’t mauled Scheer in return. If Scheer had lamed Dunkerque, the next move was to dive under the smokescreen and haul around to the reciprocal of my original course, getting over the horizon from Dunkerque as quickly as possible. Then it would become a battle of trying to run away from the three cruisers while keeping them as far abaft the beam as possible and still use both main turrets. This is the point where I would have switched from APC to CPC in order to improve the chance of laming each of these ships in turn, engaging one with the main battery and another with the secondary battery (APC for the 15cm) until one cruiser was knocked out and the relevant battery could switch to the third cruiser.

The torpedo shots were hasty, poorly aimed and obvious. Once my opponent knew I had stopped shooting and saw the second torpedo marker go down and my ship slow to 1 knot, he changed course to not be where he had been going. Smart move. Both shots were taken at the limits of train of the torpedo mounts on the aft quarters (and assuming that the need to clear the deck edge cleanly would not permit “cheating” and firing over the stern). So there was really no chance of being tricky with where the torpedoes were going.

Another smart move was the cruiser commander’s decision not to fire his guns. While it ultimately meant he didn’t get in the game, it left Dunkerque undisturbed and with the interference from the German smoke and the narrow target angle, the over-concentration penalties would have been significant. And Dunkerque didn’t need the help.

Why turn 120 degrees and fight? Why not turn 180 degrees and just run? Simple: a panzerschiffe’s top-end speed is 28 knots. Dunkerque can make 29 knots and fire everything over the bow, and the three La Galissonniere class cruisers can make 33 knots. Running wasn’t really an option unless I could lame them first. Why turn to starboard and not to port? Again, it’s simple: turning to starboard forced them to take the time to turn around to pursue me.

I had zero expectation I would win this fight because I shouldn’t. It would take more than a little improbable luck to actually succeed. But you never give up…the other guy might make a mistake.
FYI: playing time was 90 minutes.
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Roger Hobden
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Great AAR !

One day, I will try my hand at this game !
 
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Blucher Lives

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Excellent.
Glad to see you and SK5 back online!
Thanks
 
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Joe Czarnecki
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No day like today!
 
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Joe Czarnecki
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Thank you. I've not been off-line, but busy with a new career.
 
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