Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Pursuit, Entrapment and Escape of the SMS Goeben - Part 1 - An "Steam and Iron, The Great War at Sea" AAR

This naval engagement became famous because it never happened. The outcome of the simulated-reality alternative would have generated no less regret and recrimination among the Royal Navy admiralty.

Click on the picture for a better view.
The declaration of war to the German Empire by the British is just hours young. Both the German Imperial Navy and the British Royal Navy are eager to secure the first blow.

The Mediterranean is still a confusing mass of water to wage war. Three days before, the Royal Navy battle cruisers Indomitable and Indefatigable passed by the entire Mediterranean Division of the German Imperial Navy -the battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau- in opposite directions. Not a shot was fired. So close the British and German formations were that anybody on both sides with naval binoculars could make up the opposite crews in their respective battle stations. The Goeben and the Breslau were steaming east from Philippeville (French Algeria) which they bombarded con gusto after approaching it waving Russian flags. The British pursued, unable to either fire (war was not still declared between Germany and Britain) or keep up with the Goeben and Breslau. The declaration of war caught the British Navy in a hopeless pursuit of the German ships. The evasive German ships coaled up at Messina, Sicily with almost superhuman expedience. There was not neither enough coal, nor enough willingness in the Italians to provide it. The Goeben and the Breslau, under the command of Admiral Wilhelm Souchon steamed out of Messina once more with one and only one objective: reach Constantinople and drag the Ottoman Empire into the war. The British Admiral commanding the Mediterranean Fleet, Archibald Berkeley Milne, had less sharply defined objectives: prevent the Austrian Fleet from helping the German ships, protect French troop transports steaming out of French Algeria and, off course, sink the Goeben.

And this is where this fictional scenario puts me: in the cabin of Admiral Ernest Troubridge, commander of a squadron of 4 armored cruisers and 4 destroyers, with the mission of damaging or sinking the battle cruiser Goeben. The last chance to catch the Goeben before it vanishes east. What a fine mess! I'm outgunned, thinly armored and slower than my target ...

Click on the image for better viewing. This is my squadron of armored cruisers, sailing south east some 50 nautical miles east of  the Peloponnese Peninsula.
How to deal with the Goeben? She has bigger guns with longer ranges, thicker armor and a nominal speed some 4 knots higher than my armored cruisers. Admiral Troubridge considered a night engagement (the reduced visibility would eliminate the Goeben's range advantage). In this scenario, I can't do it: the scenario starts early in the morning and ends shortly after the darkness swallows long range gunnery.

To be continued ...


deve said...

This is a great game. I especially like the way the campaign add on is shaping up

JC said...

I agree. This is a gem in war game design. So simple, so effective!