Defending the convoys again, on Day 2 of the Battle of Britain
This was my first mission on 11th July 1940, the day after the RAF traditionally considers that the Battle began. At this stage in the BoB2 RAF campaign, as in the real one, the Navy is still insisting - in the face of some German-supplied evidence to the contrary - that Britannia rules the waves. And that this being so, coastal convoys should carry on, rather than shifting everything they're lugging about onto the already-busy railways. So the principal commitment of Fighter Command at this stage is flying standing patrols to provide air cover, with additional fighter squadrons on standby, ready to scramble if an incoming raid is detected by the Chain Home radar network.
This is the balance sheet as of early that morning. From flying 252 sorties, many of which never saw a Hun, we have claimed eleven kills, all of them bombers, against seven Spitfires and one Hurricane definitely lost. Hopefully our over-claim rate is not high, as this is not a great exchange rate. However, having re-started my RAF campaign afresh, I am not so far seeing the very high and hugely imbalanced losses from first time around, possibly down to me messing up saves or something.
You can see patrols 'changing shifts' over Convoy Bosom out to the west, while an incoming raid, marked up as Hostile seven zero one, strength sixty plus, has been detected over the French coast. As it happens, this raid's target is Convoy Whiskey, whose circular grey marker you can just about see to the centre right edge of the Review box, in the outer reaches of the Thames Estuary. Following the default Directives which I accepted, controllers soon scrambled four squadrons, a mix of Spits and Hurris, to join the one on patrol over Whiskey. Seventy-Nine Squadron - flying Hurricanes out of Biggin Hill south of London, squadron code NV - was the first to sight the enemy. So when offered, I accepted the chance to fly with them, opting to be Red 2 on the right of the squadron leader. This is me seen from his machine, in NV-B, as we climb gently in four, tight three-plane vics, going north over the coast near a town which might be Allhallows on Sea. I had hoped to be on the edge of the formation but mis-read the layout and ended up smack bang in the middle. Combined with the cloudy conditions, this was to have interesting consequences later.
...to be continued!
Flying a sortie in the RAF campaign
This is my second mission report from my new (or at least, new-found) toy - A2A's Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory. In case anyone's wondering, I didn't set out for them all to be called 'A bad day for...' - that's just how it's working out, so far. A bit of a give-away, or spoiler if you like, but I trust it won't last, and that future mission report titles will be a tad more cheerful.
Anyhow now that I've made a start with a BoB2 campaign, I'm wondering why I didn't take to it years ago, when I first got Rowan's original, or A2A's remake. Especially since both are so much better with the BDG updates. Now, you can even play a more conventional campaign, as described in the comprehensive BoB2/BDG manual, which enables you to have a log book-carrying, squadron-based pilot persona. This uses the underlying dynamic campaign 'wargame' to generate your missions. But for now I'm doing a conventional BoB2 'commander' (not 'pilot') campaign. The main difference is that the commander version allows you to act as any and all of the Air Vice-Marshals commanding 10, 11 and 12 Groups, Fighter Command, plus jump in and fly any squadron scrambled or tasked to patrol, either on takeoff or on meeting the enemy. Also at other points but the latter is the most interesting, and enables the player to jump in just before the start of any air fight, in any of the aircraft in the squadron about to engage.
I opted to start at the beginning of the first phase into which the Battle is conventionally divided - the channel convoy phase, starting 10 July 1940, just after the fall of France. Among the many options, you can set things so that the AI Luftwaffe you will be facing starts the battle mainly by attacking British coastal convoys ('historical' tactics), or using 'optimal' ones - which likely involves going for more beneficial targets earlier, like your airfields or aircraft factories. I opted for 'historical' and as expected, ended up with the RAF campaign AI flying standing patrols to protect convoys, plus scrambling squadrons to intercept raids as they come in. This campaign AI presents you with 'directives' which set rules your deployed forces will follow, and allows you both to vary these or create your own. It also takes decisions on what and when to scramble, abiding by these directives. The BDG manual gives excellent, detailed and illustrated advice on how to do all this, but the AI is quite good for the RAF anyway. I opted to accept all the defaults and let the AI fight the Battle, so that all I had to do was wait for something to happen and then dive in to any action that developed. As each campaign day accelerates and decelerates time as needed, you are not kept waiting staring at the map for long. And even while you are, it's a not uninteresting experience; you can watch convoys moving, patrols orbiting, raids developing and squadrons scrambling, while listening to reports as they come in. 'Hostile seven zero one is now a hundred plus' sounds positively sinister, even though spoken softly in the polite tones of an invisible but obviously efficient and very possibly pretty virtual 1940s WAAF at the plotting table.
Above is my campaign map near the end of the first of three sections the campaign day is broken into - morning, afternoon and early evening. The aforementioned raid Hostile 701 is near bottom right, returning to base after attacking Convoy Jaunty (authentic convoy and squadron reporting names are a feature), which is the grey ship marker in the Channel between the headlands at Beachy Head to the west and Dungeness to the east. The blue and white markers are RAF fighter squadrons, either the convoy's standing patrols or those scrambled as the raid came in and now heading home. During this raid I jumped in with 79 Squadron as the leader (the top right blue/white marker) when it intercepted Hostile 701. Here I am contemplating the incoming raid, from a not-terribly favourable position...
...and here I am dealing with a Messerschmitt 110 which objected to our presence...
But this mission report is about a sortie I flew the following day, 11th July. A convoy had left the dangers of the channel behind and sought safety off the North Sea port of Felixstowe. Not so safe, as it turned out, for Luftflotte 2 decided to have a go at them. Once again, we were up against a raid reported as 'a hundred plus'. Being keen, I accepted the first offer of combat that the campaign AI offered me, for the first squadron to sight the enemy in the air. This was no less than 242 (Canadian) Squadron, commanded by no less than Squadron Leader Douglas Bader. BoB2 being the stickler for unit-level historical detail that it is, it was no surprise when I therefore found myself in the cockpit not only of a Hurricane, and not only of one bearing authentic squadron codes ('LE') with each aircraft in the squadron with its own unique individual aircraft letter; but my mount was no less than the boss's own machine, LE-D, with my blue and red leader's flash below my starboard cockpit and the unofficial unit emblem, Adolph getting a kicking, adorning the nose. My Corgi diecast 1/72 has the leader's flash on the opposite side, the mirror image A (camouflage) Scheme, and is serial V7467 not P1966, but such minor details apart, BoB2's version is a pretty good replica.
Would I do the illustrious pilot justice, whose flying boots this sortie had found me filling? Well, yes and no...
...to be continued!