The Battle of Felixstowe

A right bloodbath.. hosted by Norman Bell of the Naval Wargames Society (UK)

I subscribe to ALL GUNS BLAZING! the newsletter for the Naval Wargames Society in the UK, edited by the redoubtable Mr. Norman Bell. He recently offered to start running some PBeM games for interested subscribers during the COVID epidemic, since many of us aren’t getting together for games these days. I, of course, volunteered to run a German cruiser (the SMS Derfflinger) in a small game run by Mr. Bell based on a historical scenario during World War I. It took about five turns and about a month. I have to confess that I wasn’t the best tactician– charging in when I should have stayed out on the edge of shooting distance and peppered away. Mr. Bell did us (the players) the favor of summarizing the play by play. The battle report below is entirely in his voice.

A shortish summary of the SMS Derfflinger the ship I commanded in this PBeM game.

The Battle of Felixstowe AAR

NWS PBEM Battle of Felixstowe – AAR. Minden Games’ Great War Salvo used as inspiration.
After a mine laying operation and shore bombardment of Felixstowe designed to lure ships from Harwich Force into a trap, Battlecruisers of 1st Scouting Group are surprised to see Battlecruisers of 1st Battlecruiser Squadron approaching from the north. Flagship SMS Derfflinger, with V Adm Hipper on board has SMS Moltke and SMS Von der Tann in line astern and heading 90 degrees (East). Thanks to the codebreakers in Room 40 at the Admiralty, the RN are trying a trap of their own. Flagship HMS Lion with V Adm Beatty on board has HMS Princess Royal and HMS Queen Mary in echelon to port. What Beatty does not know is that SMS Seydlitz is somewhere off to the east. What Hipper does not know is that HMS Tiger is to the north. Also there is a British laid minefield somewhere ahead. The weather is changeable in the North Sea, will the early morning sun burn off the mist and fog? Will the RN Battlecruisers have devastating magazine explosions due to cordite handling procedures?

Game Turn 1. DER, M and VDT all fire at the lead ship, HMS Lion. DER turns to starboard and steers 135 SE. LN fires at DER. QM fires at VDT and turns to 135 SE. HMS Lion is hit by a shell which fails to explode.

GT2. HMS Lion (LN) continues on course 180 (south) and fires at Derfflinger (DER). HMS Princess Royal (PR) is in line astern and fires at SMS Moltke. HMS Queen Mary (QM) straightens up astern of PR and fires at Von der Tann. SMS Derfflinger resumes heading east, Moltke and Von der Tann move to take up position in line astern. All three battlecruisers fire at LN which is totally surrounded by the waterspouts of shells but somehow emerges from the soaking with no damage. With the decreasing range and with all ships now zeroing in on the enemy, mayhem is about to arrive. The Admiralty sends an immediate signal to Beatty, “watch out for Seydlitz”, but as it is unacknowledged the Admiralty have no idea whether or not it was received.

GT3. Range between the ships is decreasing and secondary armament comes into play. DER, M and VDT all continue to fire at the lead enemy ship, HMS Lion. Three solid hits on Lion, a waterline hit from Derfflinger, a penetrating hit from Moltke and a superstructure hit from Von der Tann which cause flooding, boiler room damage, damage to the bow turrets range detection, hydraulic damage, communication equipment damage and a fire which threatens to spread. Lion is firing at Derfflinger, a straddle but only blast damage to the superstructure. Moltke is hit amidships by HMS Princess Royal, a fire starts in the crew spaces but more seriously, engine room damage and secondary explosions in the adjoining machinery spaces. HMS Queen Mary has the range after previously straddling VDT and fires again. Hit! A fuel bunker fire starts, the ammunition hoists to the bow turret and to the port side echelon turret are damaged. Ahead of Derfflinger and Moltke is patchy mist. VDT is in the mist.

GT4. Beatty and Hipper both choose to close with the enemy. The captain of Queen Mary signals to Lion and Princess Royal, “God help us all”. The Captain of the Moltke signals DER and VDT, “When you return to Wilhelmshaven: Go tell the Kaiser and Admiralstab, “That we, who lie here, did as we were ordered. We remain, obedient to their orders”.
An explosion is seen on the bow of Derfflinger as Lion straddles the enemy flagship at short range. A hit by Derfflinger on Lion’s stern turret and an electrical failure will reduce the power of HMS Lion’s broadsides. Smoke is seen coming from Moltke and Princess Royal hits her again on the stern and mid-ships. Queen Mary fires at Von der Tann, a straddle again but no hits. Black smoke is rising from Lion amidships. Moltke is hit near the waterline mid-ships and on a stern turret. Some flooding now and the damage to the turret and a temporary loss of electric power will reduce firepower. Von der Tann changes target to HMS Princess Royal, no hits are seen through the mist. The fire in VDT’s fuel bunker is being contained. Moltke fires at Lion but no hits. Is this below average German marksmanship a turning point?

GT5. HMS Lion hits Derfflinger twice, a waterline hit causing flooding and mid-ships damaging the boiler and engine rooms. Secondary explosions damage electrical and hydraulic systems. SMS Moltke is straddled by HMS Queen Mary and Von der Tann’s steam lines are damaged by HMS Princess Royal. Lion is fired on by all three German Battlecruisers. DER straddles, M misses but VDT hits mid-ships, causing flooding which could be serious and secondary explosions deep within Lion.

GT6. The battle moves to the south east as all ships are heading 135. Derfflinger (DER) hits LN twice, the bridge is destroyed killing all there including Beatty. Midship damage. LN simultaneously hits DER mid-ships. SMS Moltke straddles QM and hits mid-ship. VDT hits the superstructure, damaging the bridge and internal communication systems. The QM has narrowly avoided the same bridge damage and carnage as LN. The Princess Royal (PR) scores hits on VDT’s stern and starboard echelon turrets.

GT7. HMS Lion, listing and billowing smoke turns to the south attempting to open the range and to keep out of the way of QM and PR. Derfflinger has flooding, fire and mid-ship damage. Princess Royal has blistered paint only. Queen Mary hit for the first time has 20% mid-ship damage. Moltke has engineering and mid-ship damage approaching terminal but firepower is nearly undamaged. Von der Tann has a serious fire, 50% reduction in firepower and mid-ship damage of 30%. DER fires at the retreating Lion hitting and destroying her stern turret. M and VDT fire at HMS Queen Mary but existing damage to the German ships reduce the effectiveness and no hits are made. At such short range this is so lucky. PR switches target to DER attempting to distract her from LN and with bow turrets only bearing, scores a hit mid-ships causing a fire, damage to the engine room and secondary explosions. QM at point blank range fires a full broadside into M and causes carnage. The bridge narrowly misses being destroyed, mid-ships suffers explosions, secondary explosions, fires, damage to range, comms and hydraulic systems. No one fires at VDT and her damage control parties extinguish the fire in the fuel bunker. Damage to ships so far is as follows:
Derfflinger bow turret -25%, mid-ships -64%, engineering -50%, stern turrets undamaged, steering undamaged. Flooding and engine room damage limits max speed to 75%.
Moltke bow turret -50%, mid-ships -62%, engineering -50%, mid turrets undamaged, stern turrets -25%, steering undamaged. Max speed reduced by 50% due to engine room damage and flooding.
Von der Tann bow turret -50%, mid turrets -50%, mid-ships – 45%, engineering -50%, stern turret -50%, steering undamaged. The serious fire is brought under control.
Lion bow turret -25%, mid turret undamaged, mid-ships -80%, engineering -33%, stern turret destroyed, steering undamaged. Ship in danger of sinking. Senior officers all killed
Princess Royal undamaged.
Queen Mary mid-ships -20% with the bridge nearly destroyed, otherwise undamaged.

GT8. Derfflinger pursues HMS LION perhaps not realising how damaged she is. The short range broadside is the final nail in Lion’s coffin, causing fire and secondary explosions mid-ships and to the mid turret. Damage control parties are being overwhelmed by the fires and flooding. Dead in the water and in danger of exploding, abandon ship is ordered. The Lion did get one last shot off on Derfflinger but was nowhere near. HMS Princess Royal trying to aid Lion fires a short range broadside at Derfflinger, causing explosions mid-ships, more damage to the boiler room and the stern magazine is flooded to avoid a magazine explosion. Derfflinger is a smoking wreck. No one fires at HMS Princess Royal and she remains in almost pristine condition. HMS Queen Mary is between Moltke and Von der Tann. Both ships fire at her causing internal explosions, a serious fire near a magazine and a hole near the waterline. Damage control parties are fighting what threatens to become a losing battle. QM fires at Moltke and at short range hits and explosions are seen on Moltke mid-ships. Boiler room damage reduces speed and damage to the steering mean that Moltke cannot change course from 135 south east until repairs are made. No one is firing at Von der Tann which is good news for the damage repair parties. The bunker fire is out.GT9. HMS Lion is going down by the stern. HMS Princess Royal is undamaged and determined to avenge Lion by sinking Derfflinger. HMS Queen Mary is listing and severely damaged but should be able to make port. The damaged Derfflinger seems doomed and the order to scuttle is given. Moltke and Von der Tann limp off to the east and should make home.

Final damage summary:
HMS LION: Bow turret -25%, mid turret undamaged, stern turret destroyed, mid-ships -80%, engineering -48%, steering undamaged. Beatty and bridge crew killed. SUNK.
HMS PRINCESS ROYAL: Undamaged apart from a bit black around the edges. She comes to be known as, “the lucky ship”.
HMS QUEEN MARY: Turrets undamaged but mid-ships -70%, engineering -22%, steering undamaged, the bridge was hit and the bridge crew narrowly avoided the same fate as Lion. Serious fire and explosions, flooding – she limps into port.
SMS DERFFLINGER: Bow turret -25%, mid-ships -75%, engineering -75%, stern turret magazine flooded to avoid explosion. Internal explosions, fires. Hipper orders scuttling, goes down with the ship and never knows that Beatty was killed. Germany will say Hipper is a hero, saying that Derfflinger sacrificed herself to save Moltke and Von der Tann.
SMS MOLTKE: Bow turret -50%, mid turrets undamaged, engineering -75%, mid-ships -70%, steering -50%. Fires, secondary explosions, flooding. She limps home.
SMS VON der TANN: Bow turret -50%, mid turrets -50%, engineering -50%, mid-ships -45%, stern turret -50%, steering undamaged. A fuel bunker fire was almost terminal but the damage control parties worked wonders, helped by the ship not being fired on at the end of the action. She makes it home.

The morning mist and fog were burnt off by the sun just as damaged ships were looking for cover. The appearance of HMS Tiger and SMS Seydlitz was more likely as the game progressed, decided by umpire’s die roll but they neither did as the dice gods decreed otherwise. There was an unknown, to the Germans, mine field but the battle passed to the south of it. See next page for battle map.

I really enjoyed this game, as bloodthirsty as it was. The rules were Great War Salvo, somewhat modified for Postal Play. Many thanks to Mr. Bell for running this game. I’m voting for the Battle of Mobile bay for the next one.