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Recollections and Regrets

Posted by Andy on September 24, 2014 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (3)


Pushing the box aside with one hand, Captain Weathersby glanced at his watch. Noting the time, he ran a hand roughly through his greying rumpled hair and sighed heavily. They’d be entering the mouth of the Mersey within the hour, he thought.


Turning his attention back to the matter at hand, he sighed again. How had it all gone so wrong? Where had he failed? He cast his mind back to the last few days, forcing himself to recount all that had occurred. He buried his head in his hands once more. It would all come out anyway, in time, through the inevitable cursed review board. “Damn them all to hell”, he thought.


He had been so full of excitement, sailing out of Gibraltar on June 10th, just eight long days ago, knowing that none other than “Johnnie” Walker was in command and twenty-four merchants were under their protection.




The weather had deteriorated so quickly then, and that alone should probably have forewarned all of them what they were in for. Now, days later, he hoped the crews of the straggling City of Oxford and Camarata made it safely to port.


That first night, when all hell had broken loose, that was a shock to them all. He’d been on the bridge, monitoring their progress, guiding Jonquil through the night, when the first explosion had lit up the night sky. No one really knew how many U-boats they’d faced, but that first night saw the loss of Baron Graham and Lyminge, and eventually the Merkland too. But it was the sudden and unexpected loss of Rother, torpedoed unexpectedly, that hit home the hardest. Fellow warriors sent to their Maker with nary the slightest warning.


Weathersby paused his lamenting for a moment, and gently placed a hand on the box, shifting in his chair as he did. He remembered how he’d come upon that box. He’d won it in a game of poker in Gibraltar, fair and square. A lovely box it was too, inlaid with ivory on all four sides. Like the ivory carried by the ill-fated Empire Tern.


He lowered his shoulders and glanced at his sweaty palms. The Empire Tern, sunk later that same first night, in the wee hours of the 11th. That second attack managed to damage the Empire Moon as well, he recalled, before daybreak came and chased those damned sub-mariners away.




Thinking back to those events that were now nearly a week past, he could remember the terror they all had felt when they heard the drone of an approaching aircraft. The men had been so brilliant at their AA mounts, and at least, he thought, there was a little bright spot that day, as he smiled slightly at the thought of the frustrated Jerry pilot who had headed home unsatisfied.


“Wipe that stupid smirk off your face”, he thought to himself, “you have nothing to be happy about today”.


He raised his head and glanced in the direction of the box. It had made a good place to store his personal trinkets, he thought. He reached for the whiskey bottle and poured another round.




They’d all had a respite after that. A calm night on the 11th, a blessing, really. The men had celebrated with a little tipple, nothing excessive, just a touch, but it was warming and welcome nonetheless.


But the jubilation had been short lived. While the loss of the merchies and Rother had been tragic, he grimaced inside when he remembered Beagle. Losing an escort is never a good thing, losing two was even worse. But he had trusted Walker. Hell, they all had. So you really couldn’t have blamed him for sending Beagle away, early on the 12th, to investigate a contact. No one really wanted to talk about it; no one wanted to think about Beagle’s fate. All anyone really knew was that she hadn’t rejoined the convoy. He hoped, as he knew they all did, that they would see their friends on Beagle again.




Recalling the events of the afternoon of the 12th, then, brought Weathersby a fleeting moment of pride and pleasure, but his misery and feelings of guilt made the moment pass quickly. Another possible contact, signals from Walker; but this time it was their turn to investigate. He recalled for a moment how proud he’d been when he’d read Walker’s signal. Jonquil had been sent to hunt.


He knew his men had performed brilliantly that day, and Jonquil could, with any luck, at least claim they’d badly hurt an Eytie submarine. His logs would reflect admirably on their performance, even if he knew his more recent actions were an embarrassment to himself, his crew, and his family.


Straightening his back, he lifted the glass to his lips. The liquor was warm in his mouth, he tossed it back. “How could I have been so stupid!” he cried aloud, and threw his glass across the small cabin.




Burying his head in his hands once more, he grunted. Like the calm that befell HG-84 on the 13th, Weathersby took a slow, and deep, breath. Complacency is never a good thing, and the men, he thought, had started to get comfortable with the quiet.


“Idiots”, he grumbled low, under his breath. The 14th had seen an RAF Sunderland appear for a time, a welcome site for the men, “They’d all been fools”, he mumbled to no one in particular.


Nightfall on the 14th, and the tossing turning seas that night had led to the breaking of the silence. Explosions had again lit up the night. Fortunately, Jonquil had been in the right place then, following the subsequent torpedoing of Kitchener and Empire Moon. At least he and his men had been able to contribute something, by keeping one U-boat under sonar contact, for a time.


He reached towards the bottle then, “fuck the glass”, he thought.




Once that immediate threat had ended, they’d hoped that, like the other stragglers, Kitchener and Empire Moon, too badly damaged to keep up with the convoy, would make it on their own. Walker and Brueggeman had been determined to press on, without them. Those poor bastards.


Taking a swig from the bottle, he thought briefly about the object in the box. When had he used it last? India? Panama? Damned if he could remember straight. He took another swig and lowered the bottle to the table with a dull thud.


He’d come knocking soon, his Exec. Letting him know they were near the harbor entrance. How would he react? Would he give it away? He thought not. He knew what he had to do. Knew that the shame of what he’d already done was too great.


He stopped then, for a moment, and with sudden awareness, truly understood when it had all fallen apart for him. He’d looked up to "Johnnie". He’d trusted in him, believing that he’d be there to carry on leading them all. How could he be gone now? He reminisced, remembered the other night, when the convoy had lost Stork.




The quiet had been first broken that night by gunfire. He’d heard that a U-boat had fired first, but missed. He remembered the brilliant lights, as the merchants had quickly loosed their star shells. And even as the escorts had begun their search, a tremendous explosion had rocked them all. The Egyptian had been hit. Tense moments had followed as the light from the star shells ebbed.


Then it happened. Somehow, against all sense and reason, Stork had been torpedoed. They had lost their stalwart leader in that brief, incredulous, instant, and despite all that Copeland had done and would do, throughout their journey, as HG-84’s rescue ship, she could not rescue “Johnnie” Walker and his crew.




Soon after, a foreshadowing of his own ineptitude had occurred. As the convoy had tried to escape total destruction, its sudden starboard turn caused Vanellus to hit the stricken Stork. Wild Swan followed suit, colliding with Pelayo in an effort to get at a U-boat. And while Vanellus had, for the moment, been lucky, Pelayo would inevitably be lost that night from her damage. The irony suddenly took hold of him.  Vanellus would become a factor days later, in his own nightmare.


He had Jonquil on the opposite side of the convoy from all this action, but his men were on their toes, and he knew that night that they’d done their duty to its fullest.  For even as young Gibson was reporting a radar contact, one final explosion had erupted in the night. They learned later that the Norwegian tanker Slemdal had also been hit, and sunk. But at the time, Jonquil was focused on pursuing her own contact.


With a U-boat in their sites, they bore down, in the hopes that they would avenge their lost comrades-in-arm. They would never find out for certain, as after hours of prosecuting their contact, the needs of the convoy had required that they break off their attack.


After the adrenaline of that night had ebbed, and the convoy had regrouped, the shock of what had been lost hung thick like a fog over all of them. They all knew, at the time, that Liverpool was close at hand. Hoped that they could make it with no further loss of life.




He slammed his fist on the table, “how wrong we all were!” he grumbled, forcefully.


“Skipper, is everything ok?”, came a voice at his cabin door.


“Yea, I’m fine!!”


He glanced at the box, ran his fingers over its textured surface. How could he have been so careless? Had he been trying too hard? Did it really matter, now, anyway? Now that he had resolved to act? He toyed with the latch on the box, tugging on his short beard with his other hand.


The 15th had dawned as he knew it must, following that terrible night.  They had contented themselves with licking their wounds and maintaining their vigilience for new threats.  Learned to adjust to a new SOE in Stephenson, aboard Gardenia.


The monotony of being on constant lookout was rewarded briefly with the sighting of another ship on the horizon.  Concerned about their dwindling escorts, Stephenson had decided not to dispatch an escort to investigate.  Instead, he had signalled all of them to redouble their efforts in keeping a sharp eye out for adversaries and other threats.


At midday a long range Hudson flew overhead, providing them, for a time, an added sense of security.  At nightfall they all took their usual added precautions.




Sometime that evening, he remembered, Shetland had reported mechanical problems, wihich forced her to drop out of formation.  Stephenson, again, decided the greater good could not afford an escort be left to hang with the straggler, so Shetland was left to her own devices.


Around 2300 hours, an explosion shattered the sounds of a routine night, the flash coming from the direction of Empire Conrad.  Jonquil had remained on station, guarding another flank of the convoy.  Her time would come, his moment of stark failure would come, the next night, the night of June 16th, 1942.


He paused then, shook his head, and shuddered.  Fighting back a tear, he wondered if he really wanted to recall what had happened next.  "Want" was always a relative term.  He knew he had to.  At least this one last time.  Had to review the actions of that night, as his last act on earth.  For the sake of the victims, if nothing else.




That night had been a nasty one, in so many ways. The weather had been horrendous, he recalled. He knew the Polish escort, Krakowiak, recently arrived with Spey to help shepherd the survivors, had been dispatched earlier in the evening to hunt for another contact. He hadn’t heard yet what they’d found out, nor now, he supposed, would he ever. What did it matter now, anyway?


He’d had Jonquil to port of the convoy,  Spey, Convulvulus, and Gardenia were running forward of the herd.  As he’d heard it told yesterday, Spey had apparently caught sight of the U-boat’s scope on the water, and her crew had been on their toes and able to drop a right proper rasher of chargers on top of it.


While he had been quickly bringing Jonquil around to get his own fix on Jerry, the first freighter, Empire Kestrel, was hit hard by at least one torpedo. A mighty explosion and bright flash had lit up the night, hammering home for all the terror of the moment, as they all struggled to get to grips with their new reality.


He began to really sweat then, as he struggled to focus and recall the rumors he’d heard as he painfully reconsidered Jonquil’s part in the whole affaire. He knew they’d dredge it all up in that damnable hearing of theirs.




He remembered the U-Boat had been forced to the surface, trying to flee from them, and that a surface gunfight in the darkness of night had erupted, just as the ship Etrib was also hit. Whoever that U-Boat commander had been, he was good, or there were two or even three of those flaming subs out there that night. That would have been typical of their luck.


He was shaking then, and even as he tried to calm himself, he could tell that the memories of that night would haunt him and ruin whatever life he’d have left. He couldn’t let that happen. Couldn’t, wouldn’t, allow these memories to ruin his future, or his family’s future. That’s why he had to play them out in his mind this one final time, as his left hand rested on the box.


Re reached back into those memories, painfully, and recalled that the U-Boat crew had traded shots with a charging Convolvulus, as Spey and Gardenia did what they could with their own guns. Even his Jonquil was able to get a few shots off, albeit ineffectively.




None of them could believe it then, it was happening before their very eyes, Convulvulus was hard charging at the grey shark, aiming right for her stern, and with a gut wrenching screech, she had rammed the German!  What lasting damage had been done to Convolvulus, he hadn’t heard, but he knew that the collision must have driven the U-Boat down, beneath the waves. What had once been a fleeting surface engagement quickly became an undersea hunt.




Weathersby’s hand was squeezing the armrest, his knuckles turning white with the strength of his grip. His brow furrowed, forehead glistening with sweat, as he relived once again that horrific moment, the moment his actions as commander of Jonquil cost fellow sailors their lives.


As they were nearing the last known position of the U-Boat, he had barked orders to prepare a brace of depth charges. He was certain that they would at that moment have their revenge for having lost so many on this journey. Was it blind rage and a desire for revenge that prevented him from seeing the danger? Was it the sudden flash of an explosion and the loud report that followed as Vanellus was, in that instant, also hit by an unseen menace? Why hadn’t someone aboard Jonquil seen the Kerma looming before them, and warned him? Why hadn’t he seen her himself?




It was too late, oh so late. Even as they had crossed over the U-Boat’s position, and the charges were let go, he had looked up and realized his mistake. Shouting at the top of his lungs for his helmsman to turn hard over, it had done them little good. While in that rapid move they had avoided a direct hit, the glancing blow across the port fore quarter of Kerma was danger enough to all. With a tremendous grinding and screeching, Kerma’s hull was ripped open below the water line.




What had followed then was a blur now. Orders shouted, the U-Boat all but forgotten, as both ships had quickly seen to their damage and casualties. The collision itself had thrown him about, but his seated position on the bridge had saved him from serious injury. The same could not be said for many others aboard both vessels. The injuries and deaths were on his back. They would always be on him.




He paused then and began sobbing, uncontrollably.


There was a gentle knock at the door. “Ten minutes, skipper. The harbor master’s launch is coming alongside. Harbor master says two naval MPs are preparing to come aboard.”


This was it, then. They were coming for him. They knew, already. Knew his culpability in the collision, and must have guessed at his inner shame. It was time to do this. To save his family from the shock of what would surely come.


Weathersby sighed one final time, reached over and unlocked his cabin door, opened the box, and drew out his revolver…





 

Epilogue


The launch pulled up alongside the halted Jonquil, and tied up to her. The harbor master crossed over, followed by two naval MPs. As the group made its way across Jonquil’s deck, the ashen look of shock on the crew’s faces became evident. The harbor master could swear he heard someone mutter the words “Skipper” and “overboard”.


The two MPs pushed past the harbor master, then, and strode forcefully towards one particular sailor. Seaman Botond pulled away from them, knowingly, as the MPs grabbed him and placed him under arrest.


“Botond here is wanted for dereliction of duty and desertion”, said the harbor master, to no one in particular. The crew of the Jonquil just stood there, in shock, and stared, as the sun finally set over convoy HG-84, and the silent Liverpool dock yards.

 

HG-84 : Panic on the High Seas!

Posted by Andy on December 9, 2012 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On November 26th our group returned to the rough seas of the Atlantic Ocean, for a return to our long running convoy saga with the British merchants of HG-84.

 

 

Rob, Barry, Stephen, and Chris donned their souwesters and Kriegsmarine gear and "took her deep" as we played out the thrilling events of June 15/16, 1942. 

 

Merchant Marine Captain Barry took charge of the greatly reduced numbers of British merchants, now down to 12 of the 24 original vessels, many of them full of iron ore and pyrites, as they continued their journey from Gibraltar to Liverpool.

 

 

Sheparding these vessels were four FLOWER class corvettes (CONVOLVULUS, GARDENIA, JONQUIL, and MARIGOLD) and the WILD SWAN, all under the command of Commander Stephen.

 

Meanwhile, hiding beneath the waves, the notorious Kapitans zur See Chris and Rob bided their times and struck when their situations were favorable.

 

 

The adventure started at 0500 hours on June 15th when British lookouts spotted an unidentified vessel on the horizon.  Concerned about his dwindling numbers of escorts and the subsequent difficulty in protecting his charges, Commander Stephen chose not to investigate the ship, subsequently the Portuguese freighter LISBON sailed on untroubled.

 

A little later that morning a long range Hudson appeared over the convoy and flew cover for twenty minutes before having to leave to return to base.  Soon after, around 1300 hours, the motor vessel SHETLAND (1846 tons) struck a submerged object, suffering engineering damage that slowed it.  Concerned for the safety of the remaining ships, Captain Barry chose to proceed at 7 knots, leaving the SHETLAND to her fate.  Later enemy submarine activity would see the lone ship sunk with the presumed loss of all hands.

 

 

After night had fallen, close to 2100 hours, a vessel on the starboard edge of the convoy fired off a snowflake flare, after a jumpy lookout reported a sighting in the moonlight.  Kapitan Chris in U-134, seeing this ship now silloueted by the flare, judged his relative position less than optimal and deciced to shadow the convoy, waiting for a better angle of attack.

 

Over the next few hours U-134 angled for better position as BdU vectored Kapitan Rob's U-571 towards the convoy.  Then, at approximately 2300 hours, the British corvette CONVOLVULUS made sonar contact with a periscope depth U-134.  As CONVOLVULUS and other nearby escorts prosecuted the evading U-134, U-571 struck from ahead of the convoy, loosing four forward torpedos towards MV EMPIRE CONRAD (7009 tons), which exploded and sank quickly when two German fish struck home.  Deft handling and subsequent deep diving soon put both U-134 and U-571 out of reach, as dawn broke and HG-84 closed ranks and proceeded on towards LIVERPOOL, now some three day's sail away.

 

 

As a precursor to the future fate of Germany's u-boats, the following year, all would later learn that U-552, a VII-C u-boat, and the boat responsible for the earlier sinking of HG-84 merchant vessel SS BARON GRAHAM (3242 tons), succumbed to a British submarine at 0500 hours on June 16th.

 

We look forward to the last two Convoy/U-Boat wargame sessions, coming in 2013, where we can finish the adventures of HG-84 and bring her surviving vessels limping into Liverpool harbor.

Convoy HG-84 - Of Wolves and Collisions

Posted by Andy on March 4, 2012 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (3)

We met last Monday for our regularly scheduled game night, and enjoyed another large turn out of guys as we returned to the Eastern Atlantic in June 1942, using the slightly house modified tactical rules designed by Mal Wright and my 1:6000 Figurehead minis.

 

 

Rob, John, Eric, Stephen, Chris, Matt, Joe, and I welcomed Daniel, who is visiting Houston from the UK, to his first B&P gathering.  I umpired as Rob, Joe, and  Matt commanded the six remaining escorts (Flower class corvettes Convolvulus, Gardenia, Marigold, and Jonquil, Bittern class sloop Stork (SOE) and Modified W class destroyer Wild Swan) while Daniel commanded the 15 remaining merchants.  John, Stephen, Eric, and Chris each got to command one U-Boat, appearing in that order, as the events of the night of June 14/15, 1942 played themselves out..

 

Having departed Gibraltar on June 10th, 1942, HG-84 left with 24 merchant ships and 8 escorts.  Since starting this convoy recreation in June, 2010, we've periodically played out the pre-generated events for the first four days of HG-84's 8 day journey.

 

 

What follows are the events that played out that June night.

 

2300 hours - 14 June, 1942 - The seas were choppy as the pale moon cast an eerie glow across the waves.  Visibility was fair and a northwest wind was blowing a might stronger than usual for this time of year.

 

U-437 glides silently through the dark, between the SS Empire Kestrel and SS Empire Conrad.  As it does so it fires a couple of forward torpedos and its 88mm deck gun, but fails to score any hits.  The flash and report of its deck gun, however, gives its position away.

 

Under standing illumination orders, the lead merchant ships in the convoy fire off  starshells and the convoy commander begins issuing signal light orders to turn the convoy to starboard.  Nine minutes later that order will cause havoc as maneuvering vessels begin colliding...

 

2303 hours - A pair of British escorts in front of the convoy make high speed 180 degree turns and proceed down the lanes between the second and third columns, hunting for U-437.

 

The commander of U-437 takes his beloved boat to periscope depth and lines up a nice rear shot at SS Pelayo, with SS Copeland and  SS Transportador as secondary and tertiary targets, in the back row of the convoy, but is again unlucky and misses all three!!

 

 

2306 hours - As the two pursuing British escorts continue moving down the columns of merchants, nearing the submerged U-437, a new threat arises.  U-575 approaches the front of the convoy, at pericope depth, and prepares a firing solution.

 

The commander of U-575 slowly rotated his attack scope, and identified the nearest merchant ship as a modest sized target, sitting low in the water.  With steely nerves he fired two bow tubes and was soon rewarded as both struck home.  Very soon after, the 2686 ton SS Egyptian sank beneath the waves.

 

Meanwhile, the tension aboard U-437 could be cut with a knife.  Neither deck gun nor forward or stern torpedoes had connected with their intended targets.  Down to their last fish in the tube, the captain of U-437 saw in the distance, silloueted against the dying starshell light, a beam-on escort, at 3000 yards, that offered too tempting a target to pass up.  With the fire order given, the lone torpedo leapt from its tube and streaked towards the moving ship, only to strike her amidsihips moments later and quikly send Commander Walker and the gallant crew of the HMS Stork to their watery demise.

 

 

2309 Hours - The merchant ships of HG-84 carry out their ordered starboard turn of 45 degrees, even as two escorts begin depth charging U-437.  With the starboard turn, the SS Vanellus collides with the stricken HMS Stork, damaging Vanellus slightly.  HMS Wild Swan also collides wtih SS Pelayo, while trying to get at U-575.  The flooding in Wild Swan's bow is eventually stopped, but not before Wild Swan looses almost 3/4 of her floatation.  Pelayo is less lucky and her collision damage has her sinking quickly.

 

Content with their success, the commanders of U-437 and U-575 take different evasive approaches.  While U-437 rigs for silent running, 575 starts going deeper, but not without first sustaining some serious damage as depth charges take their toll.  While U-437 would loose just a little floatation and its sky periscope, U-575 looses two of its torpedo tubes and almost half of its floatation.  Combined with the destroyed deck gun from a previous engagement against HG-84, U-575's commander, once this battle is over, would successfully return the U-Boat to Brest for much needed repairs.

 

2312 Hours - As the convoy steams away from the two threateniing sea wolves,a new threat materializes at the convoy's new 9 o'clock position.  U-134 is slow to come on the scene, and finds itself on the beam of the convoy given its current course, but well outside the convoy...

 

 

The captain of U-134 sees his opportunity to strike the enemy in the name of the Fatherland.  With no excorts in site, it seems to be a clean shot for him into the side of the convoy vessels before him, unfortunately, his current angle and distance, and the direction of the convoy's movement., would at first stymie him.  Letting loose with several fish, all with little effect, the German Sea Gods laughed at him as they laughed at the commander of U-437 only minutes earlier.

 

2315 Hours - Fifteen minutes into the battle and the hunt for the first two attacking U-Boats is quickly consuming what few depth charges remain on a couple of the escorts.  Meanwhile, a fourth and final U-Boat, far removed and very late to the party, appears off the rear of the convoy, far from the retreating ships, hoping it can use the darkness and its diesel engines to catch up to the convoy.  Unfortunately for it, a couple of the British escorts have something called radar,,,

 

The captain of U-552 was angry.  He'd been shadowing this convoy for 24 hours and had been apprising BdU of its progress for some time, but now, as the wolf pack attack had started, U-552 found itself out of ideal position.  In the distance he could just make out the telltale explosions of depth charges, and heard the pinging of British destroyers.  Now was his chance to surface and engage the diesels.  Perhaps he could get something out of this yet.  Just then, a bright explosion ahead ripped through the night...

 

U-134 had expended most of its torpedoes but with no real luck hitting anything.  With just a pair of fish left it was time to take one last shot for the Fatherland.  With a difficult to make stern quarter shot not raising anyone's hopes, the two torpedoes leapt from their tubes and raced towards their target.  Seconds ticked by as the captain and crew waited to hear and see what they'd accomplished, if anything.  Then suddenly an ear splitting roar brought smiles and cheers to them all, as with its final torpedo of the engagement, the captain and crew of the U-134 had managed to detonate the grand prize of HG-84, the 7874 ton Norwegian tanker Slemdal!

 

 

2318 Hours - <Beep>  <Beep>  The radar operator aboard the Gardenia stared at the alien looking scope.  "What is that?", he asked no one in particular.  Looking over his shoulder, the Lieutenant began shouting orders.  With searchlights stabbing out into the darkness, the HMS Gardenia surged towards this new contact, intent on not letting another U-Boat do further damage.

 

Wondering at the sight of the burning remains in the far distance, the bridge crew of U-552 continued prodding their boat along at full surface speed, in their erstwhile attempt to get into the action.  Suddenly, one of the lookouts pointed and shouted over the din of the crashing waves and frothing sea.  The captain could quickly see the onrushing escort and probing searchlights, and with that, the captain of U-552 cursed under his breath and ordered a crash dive...

HG-84 Reaches Half Way Point

Posted by Andy on June 4, 2011 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (5)

Last week, on May 26th, eleven and a half months after our first game recreating the eight day trek of British WWII convoy HG-84, we rejoined our merchant seamen and their German adversaries.  We have enjoyed two previous game sessions and, with this third evening now under our belt, have travelled just half of HG-84's danger-filled journey.

 

Barry, Chris, Brian, and I gathered at the Stag's Head to play out the convoy's further adventures and see how the German sea wolves would do against her.  Barry took command of the convoy ships, using a new magnetized convoy situation board I created for the game, and Brian became the convoy's SOE (Senior Officer Escorts).  Chris volunteered to command any German forces that the convoy might encounter on its journey. 

 

 

I had also redone the quick reference cards and finished painting and labeling the ships and their bases, having decided to ditch the turn guages in favor of turn distances measured to the nearest half centimeter, based on the lengths of my 1:6000 scale models.  In other words each vessel would have to travel its full length in centimeters before making a turn of up to 45 degrees.  This gives a range between one-half centimeter for very small vessels (e-boats, pt-boats, etc.), all the way up to three centimeters for the larger battleships.

 

The last time we had met to play we had ended our story arc during the early half of June 12, 1942.    Once Barry and Brian had set their convoy and escort dispositions - eighteen cargo vessels, including the catapult armed merchant Empire Moon and the fighter catapult ship Kitchener, and six escorts (Convolvulus, Gardenia, Jonquil, Marigold, Stork, and Wild Swan) - we were able to get underway...

 

 

1300 hours - June 12 - Stork reports HF/DF contact.  Bearing and range are determined and the SOE orders Gardenia to investigate.

 

Subsequent extract from Gardenia's log: "Ordered to investigate HF/DF contact.  Proceeded as ordered.  Detected an Italian sub (later determined to be Leonardo Da Vinci) conducting repairs on the service.  Closed with enemy and engaged with forward guns.  Hits to stern reported.  Believed diving ability compromised.  Continued closing and turned to starboard to bring additional guns to bear.  Observed crew of sub clambering below.  Fired forward and port gun mounts and hits were observed against the bridge and on the deck gun ready-ammo container.  An explosion and fire was witnessed (several bridge officers were killed before the bridge was finally cleared)."

 

 

The Da Vinci subsequently crash dove and the lone Gardenia was unable to simultaneously maintain sonar contact and prosecute the target .  Brian correctly noted that perhaps dispatching two escorts to investigate a HF/DF contact would be wiser in the future.  With its past sinking of the Rother under its belt, and with several bridge crew casualties and a destroyed attack scope, the Da Vinci returned to base.

 

2100 hours - June 12 - Gardenia resumes its position and all escorts close up with the convoy.  Night procedures are initiated.  No contacts reported.

 

2300 hours - June 12 - No contacts reported.  Visibility good.  Seas slight.  No moon.

 

0100 hours - June 13 - Convoy vessel pulls ahead of convoy in the night.  The "romper" reaches 6000 yards out in front of its column before the Wild Swan is able to intercept.

 

0500 hours - June 13 - Wild Swan and its wayward charge return to their positions.  Stork receives a radio message from the Admiralty warning of wolf packs gathering ahead.  Convoy commander orders a course change.

 

1300 hours - June 13 - Additional messages from the Admiralty report new enemy packs in the area.  Nerves are getting tense.  Convoy commander orders an additional course change.

 

2100 hours - June 13 - No contacts reported.  The night begins quietly.  The men are thankful.

 

2300 hours - June 13 - No contacts reported.  The night remains quiet.

 

0100 hours - June 14 - No contacts reported.  The earlier course changes seem to have been wise.

 

0500 hours - June 14 - No contacts reported.  The men are enjoying their rest.

 

1300 hours - June 14 - Wild Swan reports a HF/DF contact.  Feint.  Unable to ascertain positive fix on bearing and distance.  Convoy proceeds apace at seven knots.

 

1500 hours - June 14 - RAF Coastal Command Sunderland appears.  The Admiralty is apparently  concerned.  Aircraft maintains station off the convoy's forward edge.

 

2000 hours - June 14 - Sunderland aircraft departs convoy area.

 

2100 hours - June 14 - Rough seas, strong east wind, visibility average, no moon.  Marigold reports surface contact visible off port side of convoy.  Moments later a single torpedo track is spotted.  It misses its intended target.

 

2103 hours - June 14 - Marigold loses site of enemy submarine.  Believed to have dove.  Establishes sonar contact.  Stork and Convolvulus close on contact.

 

2106 hours - June 14 - Two torpedoes in the water strike the Kitchener and the Empire Moon in the center of the convoy.  Both sustain flooding and fire and engineering damage, slowing the ships to two knots.  Gardenia maintains sonar contact on u-boat.  Stork and Convolvulus commence depth charge runs.

 

 

2109 hours - June 14 - Damage control parties are able to secure the fire and flooding on Kitchener and Empire Moon, but the engineering damage is too severe to repair at sea.  Both drop out of the convoy (both are subsequently reported missing with all hands).  One torpedo in the water hits Thurso (2436 tonnes).  Fatal hull damage causes her to sink rapidly.  Half her crew are subsequently rescued.

 

 

2112 hours - June 14 - Gardenia maintains sonar contact on what later records show is type IXD2 U-178.  Stork and Convolvulus continue dropping heavy patterns.

 

2115 hours - June 14 - Gardenia suddenly loses sonar contact, as well as hydrophone contact.  Stork and Convolvulus conduct a final heavy depth charge drop over the last suspected position of U-178.

 

 

2200 hours - June 14 - Pursuit of contact ends.  Escorts return to their positions.  The remaining fifteen ships of HG-84 close ranks and continue north towards the safety of British waters. 

 

Will the remainder of this night be a quiet one?  Stay tuned to this web site for our next report!

 

 

More HG-84 Convoy Action

Posted by Andy on January 11, 2011 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (2)

Last month’s meeting, and second at the Stag's Head, was held at 7pm on Monday, December 20th. This time we managed to have the whole Oak Room to ourselves, which was roomy and well enough lit to allow us to play comfortably. We rearranged a couple of the tables and used my table tops to give us our traditional surface and enjoyed good gaming, good pub food, and St. Arnold’s Cask Christmas Ale!

 

I ran another chapter in the ongoing adventures of convoy HG-84, a real WWII convoy that set out on June 10th, 1942 from Gibraltar, bound for Liverpool. HG-84 historically encountered the u-boats of Wolfpack Endrass. We are using Mal Wright's "Convoy" tactical rules.

 

In command of our own version of Wolfpack Endrass this time, Rob and his father shared the u-boat command responsibilities with Phong, while Barry, Chris K., and our newest player, Chris T, handled the convoy and escort duties for the Royal Navy.

 

 

HG-84 is following the green route.

 

 

In our last adventure, back in June, HG-84 came out of Gibraltar and encountered bad weather. That and some mechanical difficulty sent the 4875 ton Camerata and the 2759 ton City of Oxford straggling back to port. The evening of June 10/11 witnessed a four-boat wolfpack attack send the 3242 ton Baron Graham and the 2499 ton Lyminge to the bottom, as well as the River class frigate HMS Rother. The damaged 1363 ton Merkland was later scuttled rather than slow the convoy. All this at the cost of the U-89.

 

 

We completed the events of the evening of June10/11 (NEB-2) through to the end of daylight on June 12 (the first EB-1). Each event box represents 8 hours of travel.

 

 

This time we were able to complete the actions of later the night of June 10/11, 1942, that saw a further two u-boats (U-71 and U-132) attack the convoy. U-71 from the starboard side of the convoy and U-132 from within the convoy, both initially on the surface. U-132 managed to sink the 2479 ton Empire Tern and damaged the 7472 ton Empire Moon, before escaping beneath the waves and avoiding any significant damage. Meanwhile, U-71 was unable to make a serious impact on the convoy and was heavily damaged in the ensuing escort counterattack. She would get her revenge in time...

 

 

HG-84 fires off some star shells.

 

 

The morning of June 11th saw a much needed calm settle over the convoy, as it girded itself for further action. The afternoon of the 11th saw a single FW200 Condor surprise the convoy, only to be driven off by the fast hands on the convoy's AA guns.

 

 

A Condor shadows the convoy.

 

 

The night of June 11/12 also passed without incident but the wee hours of June 12rh brought two new escorts and soon after a High Frequency/Direction Finding (HF/DF) contact that represented a u-boat transmitting on the surface. With a rough location for the u-boat in hand the Senior Officer Escorts (SOE) ordered the recently arrived HMS Beagle, a B class destroyer, to investigate the contact. Several hours later the Beagle came upon and surprised none other than U-71, on the surface. The commander of the Beagle then made a fateful and fatal mistake. Rather than close on U-71 at maximum speed, the Beagle turned to port to bring more surface guns to bear, which gave the quick thinking skipper of U-71 a beam torpedo shot which he took, quickly sending the Beagle to the bottom with all hands. Soon afterward the U-71 set course for Lorient for repairs, confident that she had done more to damage the future chances of HG-84 then just sinking another cargo ship.

 

The adventures of HG-84 will continue in the months ahead, as the weakened convoy continues its northward journey against a reduced strength wolfpack.

 

 

 

The HMS Beagle is under attack!

 

 

With OwlCon planned for the last week of this month, it was also decided to move our next meeting up a week, and hold it at the Stag’s Head on Thursday January 20th at 7:00pm. Rumor has it that Chris might be running his long anticipated gun boat game. Why not come join us?!?

HG 84 Recap and Continuation on September 9th

Posted by Andy on June 28, 2010 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On 10 June 1942 British convoy HG 84, with 23 merchants and six Royal Naval escorts, set sail from Gibraltar, bound for Liverpool.

 

Enroute, during its ten day journey, 84 was joined by an additional four escorts and was assaulted by Erich Topp’s U-552. Topp was operating along 84’s route with eight other U-Boats of Wolfpack Endrass. Historically, HG 84 lost only five of its merchant vessels, all to Topp.

 

Using Mal Wright’s Convoy Deadly Waters rules and Figurehead’s 1:6000 scale naval minis, Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming (BAP) have set out to see if we can change history!

 

To aptly correspond to the June 10th sail date, we (Rob, Barry, Ed, and I) met on Thursday June 10, 2010 – 68 years to the day, to start our HG 84 saga. I have pre-determined all of the events for a green-route convoy in Deadly Waters, running from June 10, 1942 to June 18, 1942 – close to the length of the real ten day journey HG 84 experienced all those years ago.

 

I added a 24th ship to the 23 merchants found on Convoy Web for HG 84, the SS Kitchener, to fulfill one of our BAP tenets (one “unit” in a BAP game has to be a colorful “unit” named after, and usually commanded by, a BAP member). Unfortunately Chris couldn’t make the game at the last minute and Sandy, my original BAP “victim”, seemed to take offence at being singled out in yet another game, so the “SS Sandy Bottom” will have to wait for another convoy…;)

 

The 24 merchants were arrayed on our 8’ x 4’ table, using Convoy’s recommended 1cm = 100 yards scale, in eight columns and three rows. The Flower class corvettes Convolvulus, Gardenia, Marigold and Jonquil were positioned at the four corners of the convoy, approximately 1200 yards (12cm) from the corner merchants. The Bittern class sloop Stork led the convoy, with Cdr. F. J. Walker (DSO, RN),the Senior Officer Escorts (SOE), aboard. Taking up rear cover was HMS Rother, a River class frigate.

 

 

The following is the beginning of HG 84’s log…

 

0500hrs – 10 June, 1942 : RAF Coastal Command out of Gibraltar assigned two Hudson aircraft to fly CAP over the convoy. The planes took up position on either side of the northward-bound gaggle of merchants.

 

 

1300hrs – 10 June, 1942 : The Hudsons departed as the weather closed in around HG 84. A severe storm with poor visibility slowed the convoy, forcing it to heave to and to delay its northward progression.

 

1500hrs – 10 June, 1942 : The storm abated but left behind heavy seas, heavy rain, poor visibility, and low clouds until dusk. Near dusk the 2,759 ton SS City of Oxford and the 4,875 ton SS Camerata both reported mechanical difficulties and a decision was made to send them back to Gibraltar, to join another convoy later, once their systems were repaired. Both returned as stragglers and made it safely to port on the 11th.

 

2100hrs – 10 June, 1942 : HG 84 was unexpectedly and simultaneously attacked by four submarines. Later records would show they were the U-89, Topp’s U-552, U-575, and the Italian boat Leonardo da Vinci. In the ensuing night-time action U-89 was unlucky and perished at the hands of HMS Jonquil and HMS Convolvulus, compounded flooding taking U-89 to the bottom with all hands. U-552 managed to torpedo and sink the 3,242 ton SS Baron Graham. The rescue ship Copeland was able to save all of the Baron’s crew. U-575 was more successful, sinking the 2,499 ton SS Lyminge and critically damaging the 1,363 ton SS Merkland. After the battle the damage to the Merkland was considered so great that the convoy Commodore and Cdr. Walker decided to scuttle the ship rather than risk an escort tow. The Copeland was again able to rescue all of the crew from both stricken vessels. HG 84’s escort situation was severely hampered when HMS Rother turned hard to port to come after a hard starboard turning Leonardo da Vinci, whose bow tubes were not as lucky as her four stern tubes. The commander and crew of the Rother learned the hard way just how bad a full stern shot from an Italian Marconi sub can be when the Rother sunk, taking roughly 30% of her crew to the bottom with her. Rescue operations managed to save the majority of the crew, thankfully.

 

 

On Thursday, September 9th, 2010, at 7:00pm at Asgard Games in Houston, we’ll take up the journey of HG 84 where we left off and see what happens next! :D

 

Why not come and join us?

Convoy HG-84 Deadly Waters, June 10, 1942/2010

Posted by Rob on June 13, 2010 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Andy, Ed, Barry and I gathered at Asgard in June to try a new naval game "Deadly Waters" about the Atlantic convoy battles in WWII.  Andy painted up an entire WWII convoy w/ escorts and attacking U-boats for this game in 1/6000 scale using miniatures by Figurehead.


The game focuses on the Gibraltar to England convoy routes of mid-1942.  For our game, Andy pre-selected the green route and each box corresponded to an 8 hour turn (2 daylight turns + 1 night turn per day).


Each turn has an events box that determines possible events.  Weather and these events make each convoy run unpredictable and different.  For the convoy we were playing, the first day consisted of some Coastal Command Hudsons joining the convoy to provide air cover, and an uneventful departure from Gibraltar.  The weather started getting rough (couldn't resist) and the convoy had to heave to in the later part of the day.  As night fell, the seas remained choppy and provided perfect cover for a concerted U-boat attack of x3 U-boats and an Italian submarine.  Andy will have to fill in the exact boats, etc. of the engagement.



All I can say as the wolfpack commander is that this convoy game seemed to model exactly what it was like to fight this battle, and made combat simple and easy.  The U-boats sprang their ambush, fired off all the torpedos they could from the surface, and then dove to evade the escorts who quickly activated ASDIC and started dropping depth charges.  What surprised me was the armament carried onboard every merchant.  A U-boat charging into a convoy is going to get shot at by a lot of ships.


Torpedo combat was quick and bloody, I think x3 merchants and one escort succombed to the attack.  One of the U-boats got double-depth charged by two escorts operating as a team and was overcome by flooding and sank.  The other U-boats all escaped but were damage in some minor way (a lot of deck gun hits). 


The important elements of any naval ASW game were all covered.  Detection, torpedos, and depth charges in a simple manner that we seemed to grasp quickly.  The charts and damage tracking are all well laid out and graphically impressive.


Andy has all the data from our first round, so this is a game we could pick up again and continue the advance of HG-84 toward England.  There are x3 less merchants, one less escort, and one less U-boat out there on the sea-lanes.


View the Photo album for more pictures.  Thanks to Andy for hosting the game.