WWII Coastal Forces, Attack with Torpedoes! 1/600 scale
If you look on the period link, you’ll see we haven’t played a Coastal Forces game for quite a few years. There’s no real reason for it – this just seemed to be a naval period that slipped between the cracks. So, when Bart said he wanted to do a naval game, and something we hadn’t done lately, I thought that would be a good excuse to dust off my box of little ships. The scenario involves an attack by German E-Boats on a small British coastal convoy, chugging its way down the North Sea coast towards the Thames. It was now 15 miles off Great Yarmouth, heading south, and had just passed through two sandbars – Corton Sands and Cross Sands. that’s when the Germans made their move.The convoy consisted of four merchant ships of various sizes, escorted by the Hunt class destroyer escort Southwold, the converted trawler Burray, the armed tug Alert and the former paddlesteamer ferryboat Thames Queen. The attacking Germans were split into two divisions – Bill attacking from the north-east commanded a powerful little R-boat and two modern E-Boats, while Bart approaching from the south-east had three older but still very potent E-boats. So, the convoy was heading south, with the English coast a few miles off their starboard side. the Germans were approaching them from seaward, so if the British were heading towards 6-o-clock on the watchface, Bill was coming in from 2-o-clock, and Bart from 4-o-clock. In Navy-speak this would be Red 135°and Red 45° – red denoting port, and the rest bearing bearings from the convoy. Whatever you called it, the Germans were coming – and coming fast! Actually, only Bart really closed the range like an incoming missile. Bill’s three boats kept their distance, content to trade shots with the Thames Queen, hoping – I imagine – to neturalise her, and so force their way into the back of the convoy. However, entertaining though this was, Peter, commanding the rear of the convoy, was content enough to maintain his formation, illuminate Bill’s ships with starshells, and blaze away at them from long range (actually, only about 900 yards). The black rods in the photos are ranging rods, painted with tracer rounds. When laid down to show who’s firing at who it really highlights the frenzied nature of the action. Meanwhile, Bart’s three boats were screaming in like banshees. The leading one fired a torpedo – a sort of test shot – while the others held their torpedoes in reserve until they got a little closer. Strangely, with the torpedo doing 40 knots, and the E-Boats screaming along at 36, they were right behind the “big fish”.Now, my escorts – Burray and Southwold – were able to issue new orders each turn, and so turn out of the way. The merchant ships weren’t so lucky – they had a two turn lag with orders, which meant they had to keep on their intended course for another turn, and couldn’t get out of the way. This wasn’t looking good, and it was about to get worse as Bart unleashed a spread of another five torepdoes, all racing towards the heart of the convoy. The first victim was the 1,500 coastal freighter Hoxa Sound. She was the leading ship in the port column, and therefore the closest merchant ship to Bart’s E-Boats. She was struck squarely by Bart’s first torpedo, and she went down within seconds. Actually, Bart’s leading boat – S-39 – might well have accidentally collided with her, but the boat took fire from all sides – from the Burray, the Southwold and even from the little guns in the merchant ships – and she was stopped and reduced to floating wreckage before the reached the sinking ship. It was probably just as well – the other five torpedoes were right behind her, and missed her by inches as they swept by. Meanwhile Bart’s two remaining boats were still heading at full steam into the middle of the convoy, preceded by these torpedoes. by then though, the merchant ships had begun to turn, and the big one – the 4,000 ton Stirling Castle – had a near miss as two torpedoes raced past her stern, but she remained unhurt. Less fortunate was the smaller 2,500 ton Marcia Blaine, which encountered a spread of two torpedoes almost head on. Fortunately for her, Bart rolled poorly and they didn’t hit, passing harmlessly down her starboard side. By then his tow remaining E-Boats were in the middle of the convoy, and taking heavy fire. they shot back though, but they were clearly getting the worst of it. So, finding himself unable to maneouvre out of the way, Bart decided to try ramming.The first boat – the S-37 – slammed headfirst into the Southwold, and smashed herself to pieces. The destroyer escort was hardly scratched – cries of mind the paintwork were heard from one corner of the gaming table. Clearly plowing plywood boats into steel ships wasn’t a viable option. In the picture above you can see the result – two little wreck markers just off the port quarter of the Southwold. Seconds later it happened again, as S-38 couldn’t avoid ramming into the towering steel sides of the Stirling Castle, despite being slowed down by multiple engine hits. She slammed into the merchant ship and disintegrated, again causing almost no damage. That really marked the end of the game. Bill’s three ships were still in the game, but seeing the fate of Bart’s division he had no wish to mix it with the escorts. Instead he fired four torpedoes at long range and turned for home. So, the game was a British victory of sorts. We lost one small freighter, but the Germans lost three of their six boats, which tipped the balance of victory in Britain’s favour. It was a good and fairly fast-paced game, despite us not having played it for years. Great fun – and rather chaotic!