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Hunting HMS Edinburgh

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Another Atlantic Fleet battle in Arctic waters!




I have always been something of a fan of the big German destroyers of World War 2, ever since assembling tiny 1/1200 plastic kits of some of them in the early 1960s. These were made by Eagle, part a themed series representing the ships involved in the First and Second Battles of Narvik in April and June 1940. Like this one, of a Leberecht Maas class...or is it Erich Giese?


Eagle Maas.jpg


Maas wasn't actually at Narvik, having been sunk in a disatrous 'friendly fire' incident in the North Sea, bombed at night by an He111 of KG 26 which didn't know the navy had laid on a mine-laying operation in the same area. Another destroyer from the force, Max Schulze, was lost with all hands immediately afterwards, some say from another bomb, others by a mine in the same area.


Atlantic Fleet’s comprehensive set of historical battles doesn’t include the quite well-known actions at Narvik, the reason I believe being that the game’s 3D environments don’t include land – and these battles were fought in the confines of the fjords at Narvik. Which is quite something, especially considering that the second battle involved the Royal Navy hunting down and destroying the German shipping left from the first battle with nine destroyers and a battleship, no less. The photo below shows the battleship, HMS Warspite, in action during the battle, well into Ofotfjord.




Big and powerful as they were, the German destroyers had rather less reliable machinery and being somewhat top-heavy, were less sea-worthy than their British counterparts, though all this seems to have gradually improved as the design was developed. At any rate, these are disadvantages which I don’t think affect them in Atlantic Fleet and having conquered Convoy PQ13 in my previous outing, I looked around for another historical battle featuring these ships. There are several more on offer and from these, I picked another Arctic encounter, one which came just over a month after the earlier battle. This was the German effort to sink HMS Edinburgh, in May 1942.

The historical battle

In late April 1942, Edinburgh left Murmansk as part of the force covering return Convoy QP11. The cruiser was carrying a substantial consignment of gold bullion, payment towards the war material then being convoyed to the Soviet Union.  Edinburgh was the sister-ship of the preserved HMS Belfast, a modified Town (or Southampton) Class cruiser, with twelve 6-inch guns. Belfast is seen below on the River Thames in London, before she was repainted in wartime camouflage.




On this outing, Edinburgh was crippled by hits from two torpedoes fired by U-456, and forced to turn back to Murmansk, escorted by destroyers Foresight, Forester and some minelayers. One of the torpedoes had basically demolished Edinburgh's stern, as you can see from this contemporary photograph.




Air attacks by torpedo bombers failed to sink Edinburgh. But on 2 May, she was found and attacked by three destroyers – Z 7 Herman Schoemann and the un-named Z 24 and Z 25, which had earlier sunk a merchantman in an inconclusive tussle with the convoy, before resuming their hunt for Edinburgh.

In the action which followed, the crippled cruiser fought back and severely damaged Schoemann, which was abandoned and scuttled with 8 dead, the rest rescued by her consorts and a U-boat which arrived later. However, Edinburgh was torpedoed again by Z 24 or Z 25 and was abandoned and scuttled in turn, with 58 men lost in all.


Edinburgh's gold bullion was recovered in the early 1980s in a salvage operation as dramatic as many a battle, but that's another story.

How did I get on re-fighting the battle in Atlantic Fleet? It's time to find out!


...to be continued!

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The battle in Atlantic Fleet


The map view below shows the tactical situation at the start of the battle; there is no scale as such, but selecting a target either in the map or the 3D world will give you a range estimate – always or nearly always in Atlantic Fleet, battles start inside gun range. Atlantic Fleet doesn’t have a British minesweeper and here, we have just Edinburgh and the two destroyers, Foresight and Forester. The same 3D model represents all the Town Class cruisers in Atlantic Fleet, although in real-life, Edinburgh’s raked funnels were set back a good deal further than in the earlier sub-classes (see the picture of Belfast in the first post in this thread). My three destroyers are in line abreast sweep formation and as the enemy has the initiative, we will have to endure the first shots of the battle.




Realistic or not, I have the view set to switch, with the current turn, between enemy and friendly ships, so I have a good view of the opposition. Edinburgh kicks off with a short move at about 3 Knots followed by a salvo nearly straight ahead from ‘B’ Turret, which falls short of her target.




This seems to be the only turret operational and she’s also got a noticeable list, as well as propulsion damage. I’m encouraged to see that the cruiser is starting with a significant level of damage, as in the real battle!

The closest enemy destroyer, Foresight, lets fly with a starshell, while Forester just closes the range, without firing. Now it’s my turn.  

The pause between turns gives me time to study the map and make a quick plan. I decide to repeat the tactics from my last battle, against a similar but undamaged force. Z 24 and Schoemann will turn slightly left and go to maximum revolutions, aiming to cut across the front of the advancing enemy and cross his ‘T’. Z 25, on the right of my line, will bear slightly to starboard so as to come up abeam of the enemy, dividing his fire and setting him up for a possible torpedo attack, later.

I don’t always bother with starshells. Fired by the AI enemy, they reportedly improve his accuracy but for the player, I think their only benefits may be that starshells (i) improve the accuracy of the initial firing solution, which one never uses after the first, ranging salvo and (ii) cause to be visible/rendered more distant targets which would otherwise be invisible/not rendered (seen only as a radar target marker, in map view).


My first salvo is fired by Schoemann. Unlike the later Narvik Class Z 24 and Z 25, she had 5-inch rather than 5.9-inch guns, and two forward turrets (all the Narvik Class in Atlantic Fleet are modelled with a twin forward turret). The 'flight of shell' visual effects in Atlantic Fleet are vastly more acceptable that the (to my eyes) horrible gamey ones in World of Warships  - and there's none of the silly dodging around islands or icebergs that mark the latter as strictly an arcade shooter, to my mind - nothing wrong with that, of course, each to their own, but not my cup of tea.



Soon the rounds are flying back and forth. It quickly becomes certain that Edinburgh is already in trouble, perhaps unable to manoeuvre, reduced to very low speed and with only one three-gun turret operational. So like the man walking along the beach throwing pebbles at every seagull because he wants to leave no tern un-stoned, I am happy to divide my fire between the three targets we have.




My destroyers jink back and forth to put off the enemy gunners, as they advance through the snow squalls. Rounds from both sides are going close, but everyone is slow to land hits. First blood comes when I start getting some hits on the easiest target, the crippled cruiser. However, she’s also the toughest target, despite the prior damage.

First serious damage is suffered by Foresight, which is the target of Z 24 on the left of my rough battle line. A straddle from a three-gun salvo produces a hit and perhaps also near miss splinter damage, and a fire breaks out amidships.




Efficient damage control soon has the fire out and Foresight - which is now in the van of the enemy force - turns to starboard to bring her broadside to bear on Schoemann. You can see the latter, partially illuminated by starshell, now on a parallel course, while the ship further away to the left and on the opposite heading is Z 25, which is engaging Edinburgh. Forester has also turned and the two British destroyers are doing a good job of screening the damaged cruiser.




Edinburgh is now firing starshell every so often, in between salvoes, as if to assist the shooting of Foresight and Forester. The whole force seems to be co-operating well.  At the moment it's Schoemann who is lit up, but rather than the enemy concentrating on her, all three of my ships find themselves under fire.




Edinburgh is the one engaging Schoemann, but fortunately she's only got the one turret in action, and her shooting with that continues to be unimpressive.




There’s a strong wind blowing and as we move, its relative direction shifts somewhat, complicating the task for our gunners. In the meantime, the enemy is now making better shooting. Suddenly, Z 25 is hit hard by Forester and there’s a violent explosion from somewhere amidships. She’s still in the fight but her steering fails, locking her into the zig-zag to starboard which she was making when the rounds fell.




In my centre, Schoemann is locked into her own little battle with Foresight, and is soon trading blow for blow in what looks like being a fight to the finish. Some hits amidships exact revenge for Z 25. In the process, the gap is widening between Schoemann and Z 24, still aiming to cut across the bows of Edinburgh, over on my left.



Z 25 has restored steering, just in time to suffer a secondary explosion as something previously damaged cooks off, or fire reaches something it shouldn't.




It's some consolation that Foresight has been hit again and is suffering similar woes.




I find that the damaged Z 25 is now within torpedo range of Edinbugh – at near maximum, but the cruiser seems a good target, broadside on, barely moving, and possibly unable to manoeuvre. The state Z 25 is in, this might be her last chance to play a part in the battle. I let fly with a salvo of tin fish. But while they are in the water, Z 25 is hit again and little latter, suffers a further big explosion. This is the end for Z 25. She goes down. The battle has claimed its first victim, and it’s one of mine.




...to be continued!

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The tipping point and beyond




The map view below shows the tactical situation at the time of Z 25's loss. The battle between my two remaining destroyers and the enemy's opposite numbers is now in full swing. The sinking of Z 25 has left Edinburgh unengaged, but she's crippled and at a longer range, so Foresight and Forester are clearly the main threat.




Forester has a fire raging aft but is still full of fight. She and Schoemann's are still slugging it out. For now, Schoemann seems to be getting the better of her enemy.






Edinburgh is still in the fight, but for the time being, I must ignore her. She's still only got 'B' turret in action and is crawling along to the rear of the fight. I just have to hope that she doesn't succeed in landing a 6-inch shell on either of my destroyers, in the meantime.




Suddenly, Forester turns to port and launches torpedoes at either Schoemann or Z 24. I’m forced to turn both end-on to the incoming torpedo tracks, and chose to do so by swinging towards our attacker, dropping the range. We have been closing faster than I'd reckoned on and I'm not at all sure I will be able to avoid the incoming tin fish. This could be my undoing!




While the torpedoes are in the water, Z 24 and Schoemann blast away at the British destroyers with their forward guns, getting hits. Then it's the enemy's turn, and despite the smaller bows-on target, Forester succeeds in landing a salvo on Schoemann, starting a nasty fire.




But both British destroyers have been hit hard, and are also on fire. Whichever way you look, the sea seems to be full of burning warships, all mixed up and firing away at one another. Surely this can't go on; something has got to give.






Sure enough, the tipping point in the battle now arrives. The torpedoes from Forester go wide, just as Foresight goes under. This of course leaves both of my destroyers able to engage Forester, and the concentration of fire is quickly decisive. She, too, slips beneath the waves.




Now, at last, it's Edinburgh's turn! Z 24 and Schoemann shift their fire onto the slowly oncoming cruiser.




She's still dangerous, and even as our shells splash around her, she's firing back with her one serviceable turret.




With the range closing, Edinburgh's accuracy seems to have improved, and she gives Z 24 a nasty fright. She's lucky to escape with a wet forecastle and likely, some splinter damage.




Schoemann is now well within torpedo range and launches a salvo of four. Edinburgh is barely moving and she's not going to be able to avoid my attack, I am certain.




She doesn't, but although the results are visually spectacular, they are not fatal. I wait in vain for Edinburgh to sink. At least one of my torpedoes must have been a dud, I feel sure.




To cap it all, Edinburgh is still shooting. She decides to illuminate Schoemann, who is on the opposite side of Z 24 and being careful to keep out of the latter's arcs of fire.




It's time for Z 24 to have a crack with her torpedoes. The range is just over 5,000 yards. I know it will take more than one turn for the torpedoes to reach their target, but Edinburgh is moving so slowly, she's basically a sitting duck.




This time, the result is not in doubt.




Edinburgh seems to stop in her tracks and slips quickly below the surface, nearly on an even keel. She has been a tough target, but she won't be escorting any more convoys, and that gold bullion she's carrying won't be seeing the inside of the vaults of the Bank of England any time soon...not for another forty years, in fact.




Time to see if we can find any survivors from either side, sadly not very likely in these cold seas. Then it's back to base. We've suceeded in sinking the crippled cruiser, and her two consorts to boot, but at the cost of Z 25 lost, Schoemann badly damaged and Z 24, lightly. Perhaps nevertheless the Fuhrer will continue to recognise the value of surface ships as part of our efforts against the Arctic convoys. After all, every merchantman lost is a cargo which won't be sustaining the Bolshevik hordes in the decisive struggle against our embattled forces on the Eastern Front; we can still win this war!



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