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Convoy HG-84 - Of Wolves and Collisions

Posted by Andy on March 4, 2012 at 2:20 AM

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...

Categories: Convoy HG-84

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Reply Rob
10:32 AM on March 7, 2012 
Great write-up! It's like a scene out of Das Boote. Can almost hear the music...
Reply Andy
10:47 AM on March 7, 2012 
Thanks. I only wished I'd gotten there earlier so I would have had time to setup the portable DVD player I'd brought to play Das Boote.
Reply StephenK10
10:44 AM on March 9, 2012 
Another great scenario with a great group of guys and that's not just the beer talking. Now that I have the rules down, I would love to play again.