Action off Horns Reef – 17th August 1915

The British force breaks off at the end of the action

The society is refighting all of the naval actions of WW1 as a long running campaign, initially focussing on British Home Waters in 1914-1915.

Scenario 10 covered a night action off the Danish Coast on 17th August 1915.

Ships used are 1/3000 Navwar, with the Princess Margaret and the Light Vessel scratch built, all from Mark’s collection.  Rules are Mark’s computer moderated rules written in Visual Basic 6.

British forces were heading in to the Heligoland Bight to lay a large minefield aimed at catching German vessels coming in and out of their ports.  The large Minelayer, Princess Margaret, was escorted by seven modern ‘M’ class destroyers of the 10th Flotilla.  The sun had recently set and the British force was using the light from the Danish Horns Reef Light Vessel to get a position fix before heading in to lay the mines.  These were commanded by Mark as umpire.

Co-incidentally five large German destroyers of the 2nd Torpedoboots-Flottille had been on a search mission to the north that day and were heading back to port, also using the light vessel to get a fix before their final run in.  This force was commanded by Jon.

Horns Reef Light Vessel

The British force was silhouetted against the afterglow of the sun and so at 8.13pm the German force was able to sight and close on the British unseen.  At 8.22 the British spotted the shapes of ships in the murk and after some hesitation about their identity, the closest Division of British destroyers opened fire.  A short fight at about 5000 yards ensued with the British getting off a couple of torpedoes.  Apart from a near miss on the British destroyer Miranda, no hits were made and whilst the British torpedoes crossed the German line they both missed.

The British had turned away and with the remaining light having gone, the two sides lost sight of each other.  The players now plotted their next actions on a map.

The British decided to attempt to resume their course for minelaying and at 20.40 the two sides blundered back into contact.  As there was no moon and the Princess Margaret reacted slowly to the new contact, the two sides found themselves very quickly at close range.  The British 1st Division raced forward to shield the Princess Margaret, with both sides opening fire as they closed to just 600 yards and the German commander ordered a flotilla torpedo attack.

The close range clash – torpedo markers show the salvos fired and Minos has a marker showing she cannot turn to starboard due to a heavy port list

In a few minutes of mayhem the British destroyer Minos and then the German B 109 sank as a result of shell hits.  The British were extremely lucky to avoid 16 well-directed German torpedoes which crossed the tracks of 6 ships including the Princess Margaret.

Moorsom and Miranda shield the Princess Margaret

The Mentor and Moorsom were also badly damaged and reduced in speed and the German G 103 stopped by a shell in her engine rooms.  She was able to repair her damaged steam line and get back underway at reduced speed after the action to limp home.

B 98 leads the German Flotilla

The British again broke off and this time headed west for their covering force.  The German boats gobbled up the lagging Mentor and sank her with gunfire, then also stumbled across the crippled Moorsom as they steered south for home, again finishing her with a couple of salvos.

The British destroyers had succeeded in saving the heavily loaded minelayer they were there to screen, but had paid a high price, with 3 of their destroyers sunk, for only 1 German boat lost.

In the real action the Germans used the light advantage to close, then fired 3 torpedoes, before the British saw them.  One of these hit and blew the bow off the destroyer Mentor.  The Germans and British then immediately broke off, leaving the Mentor alone.  Once shored up, she managed an epic journey to limp all the way home.

In all campaign games German losses count double, to reflect the fact that they were less able to absorb losses and to reflect their more cautious use of their ships.

Nevertheless this game was a German tactical victory as the tonnage of British ships lost was more than double that of German ships lost – 2805 tons to 1352 tons, a net score of 101 points for Jon as German commander and a loss of the same for Mark as British/Umpire.  This leaves the league table as follows:

Mark H +87196
Andy K +13060
Mike P +11339
Alan O +350
Mark W +307
Alex M +121
Colin C 0
Brian S 0
Dean L 0
David S 0
Ian F 0
Brandt 0
Andrew (visitor) 0
John Le -428
Jon R -1155
Barry -3995
Trevor P -9538
Craig D -14481
Steve T -30235
Bob C -52540

 

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