Another plague distraction: I play in the Naval Wargame Society’s planned Play be Email (PBeM) run by Norman Bell, the secretary of the Society and the Editor of All Guns Blazing, our newsletter. The PBeM games are short, usually quite bloody and feature an interesting fog of war concept that is created by Mr. Bell adjudicating the turns in double blind fashion over email. I find them very entertaining, although sometimes frustrating as I try to figure out what exactly my ship managed to do in the last turn and what is the best course of action for the next turn. I previously played a NWS PBeM game on the Battle of Felix Stowe back in 2020, as you can see here. In this game of British vs. German destroyers encountering each other near Narvik in 1940, the Germans are escorting a fuel tanker (important) and encounter a relatively similarly sized patrol of English destroyers. A fast moving, furious engagement ensues, leaving both sides badly damaged. I was skippering the Hermann Kunne (Z class, 1936). I resolved I would encounter the British in an aggressive posture and kept up a brisk fire throughout the engagement and engaged the enemy aggressively. Here’s Mr. Bell’s AAR of the engagement, I found it entertaining. Notice: From here down, words and pictures by Mr. Norman Bell and the Naval Wargames Society.
NAVAL WARGAMES SOCIETY – PLAY BY EMAIL FIRST BATTLE OF NARVIK. 10th April 1940.
German (Zerstorer) (Z21) Wilhelm Heidkamp (Flag Kommodore Friedrich Bonte) 1936 Class.
German (Z19) Hermann Kunne 1936 Class
German (Z18) Hans Ludemann 1936 Class
Armament 5 single 12.7cm (5 inch) gun turret. 2 x 4 torpedo tubes 53.3cm (21 inch)
Royal Navy H Class Destroyers.
HMS Hardy (H87) Flag Capt Bernard Warburton-Lee
HMS Havoc (H43)
HMS Hunter (H35)
Armament 4 single 4.7 inch (12cm) gun turret *Hardy has an additional “Q” turret between the funnels. 2 x 4 torpedo tubes 21 inch (53.3cm).
Four German supply ships are anchored at Narvik. A tanker, two freighters which have landed troops ashore and an ammunition ship.
Ship 1 Tanker Jan Wellem
Ship 2 Freighter) troops are
Ship 3 Freighter) already ashore
Ship 4 Ammunition Ship Rauenfels.
The RN do not know that the German Destroyers are short of fuel and if the tanker is damaged or sunk, it will count towards a RN victory. Also the flotilla leader (Z21) Wilhelm Heidkamp, has empty torpedo tubes on the starboard side, having previously fired the torpedoes and sunk a Norwegian destroyer. The three German Destroyers, through the snow and fog, see three “H” Class Destroyers to the North, heading East.
The Royal Navy Destroyers, Hardy flotilla leader, Havoc and Hunter are in line astern heading East towards Narvik, when through the snow and fog, enemy destroyers are seen to the south and to the south east 4 merchant ships are seen apparently at anchor in the channel into Narvik.
Game Turn 1. Z21
Wilhelm Heidkamp (WH) heads North and fires at the nearest enemy Ship which is HMS Hardy. No hits. Hardy return fires without hitting. Z19 Hermann Kunne (HK) turns to port and heads NW. She fires at the nearest enemy, HMS Hunter. Range is long. A straddle, Hunter’s return fire falls short. Z18 Hans Ludemann (HL) moves North and fires at HMS Havoc, Range is long. No hits. HMS Hardy continues East and HMS Havoc and HMS Hunter steer SE and close the range.
Game Turn 2. Z21
WH continues North and fires at HMS Hardy again at point blank range and fires the Port torpedo salvo as Hardy passes sailing South. Incredibly neither ship hits the other with gunfire and the two torpedoes that hit Hardy fail to explode. Z19 HK continues North and again fires at HMS Hunter. Range medium. No hits on Hunter but Hunter hits HK’s bow gun damaging the range detection and comms equipment. Z18 HL twists North West and then North again. HL and Havoc exchange fire. Havoc is straddled and Havoc hits the bow gun of HL destroying the mount. Steam lines are damaged, there is fire in the ammunition hoist and secondary explosions. Damage control parties swing into action.
Game Turn 3: Hardy moved south and continued to fire on enemy WH, range medium. No hits. WH fires at Hardy again, a hit damages the boiler room, and damages electrics which are quickly
repaired. Hans Ludemann (HL) fires at Hardy and scores several hits. Fire and flooding in crew spaces lead to galley damage and secondary explosions. A penetrating hit damages the ammunition hoist to a rear gun and starts a fire in the magazine, damage control parties are stretched to the limit. A magazine explosion is a possibility unless the damage control party can put the fire out. A hit near the bridge damages fire direction equipment. HMS Havoc. (Hav) through the snow showers sees that the northernmost moored merchant is a tanker and changes target to the tanker. Near misses but no hits. HMS Hunter. (Hun) ordered all guns to fire at the ship in which is a now correctly identified as a tanker. Due to command and control errors, the order to fire the torpedoes is not carried out. Hunter’s gunfire straddles the tanker but no hits. Hermann Kunne (HK) fires at Hunter, straddles without any hits.
Game Turn 4. HMS Hardy. (Har) steered SW and turned back to 180 south. The heroic damage control party put out the fire and avoided an explosion in the magazine but the ammunition hoist is damaged beyond repair and one of the rear guns is unable to be fed with ammo. Hardy is belching black smoke from stern and funnels. She fires all guns that bear and launch a port side torpedo salvo at the merchant, which you now know to be a tanker, range is medium. Again gunnery is abysmal and you see no hits. Two torpedoes head towards the tanker and two torpedoes head to the south but as luck would have it, they head towards Ships 2 and 3. The tanker is hit by two torpedoes. The WH fires at Hardy without hitting. The HK fires at Hardy without hitting. HL fires and hits the Hardy’s bow damaging the gun and killing some crew. HMS Havoc (Hav) at short range fires guns and torpedoes at the southernmost Freighter. Guns score two hits. No torpedo hits. HMS Hunter. (Hun) continues south astern of Havoc. All guns fire at Ship 3 and Port torpedoes at the large merchant (Ship 4). A hit on Ship 3 but no torpedo hits on the large merchant ship. Considering the torpedoes launched and the gunfire, the Germans were lucky. The Jan Wellem, hit by two torpedoes is in a bad way, listing. The Rauenfels hit twice by gunfire could explode if the flames reach the ammunition. Ship 3 is hit by gunfire and has a fire amidships. The HK is in an area of snow and fog and cannot be seen by the RN.
Game turn 5. Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp. (WH) moved south and fired at HMS Hardy again at range 2 Medium. No hits were seen. Z19 Hermann Kunne (HK) course 225 SW, emerged from the fog and fired at Hardy. Range 3 Long. You see no hits. Z18 Hans Ludemann. (HL) fired again at HMS Hardy, range 2 Medium. Through the smoke you see a straddle, mid-ship and superstructure hits. HMS Hardy (Har) steered SE. Two torpedoes that veered towards merchants 2 and 3 do not appear to have hit either ship. (Umpire’s Note: They passed harmlessly under the freighters). Ship 1, the tanker Jan Wellem is listing and is beginning to sink. You now fire your guns at the large merchant. You see solid mid-ship hits. Your damage control parties have extinguished the stern fires. But now all three German Destroyers are firing at Hardy! WH at medium range straddles without hitting, HK firing through the mist and snow from long range misses but HL at medium range scores multiple hits; causing fire and flooding in crew spaces and the galley, secondary explosions, damage to the superstructure AND a hit to the bridge, killing the bridge crew including the flotilla leader, Capt Bernard Warburton-Lee. All three RN Destroyers have concentrated gunfire and where possible torpedoes at the large mechant at the southern end of the line. Unfortunately the ship is the freighter/ammunition Ship Rauenfels. which is loaded with ammunition and other combustable stores. There is a catastrophic explosion. The Rauenfels is enveloped in fire and smoke. HMS Hardy and HMS Havoc are in the blast radius and both receive damage to the superstructure. Somehow HMS Hunter escapes damage apart from paintwork being ruined. HMS Havoc (Hav) had fired guns at the southernmost Freighter at short range, scoring two hits on the ship, the freighter/ammunition Ship Rauenfels’s explosion damages the superstructure, the Havoc’s bridge crew loose their hats and hearing.
The result of the RN Destroyers concentrating on the moored merchant ships, is the Jan Wellem has been hit by two torpedoes from HMS Hardy and is beginning to sink, (the Germans will miss the fuel she is carrying), and torpedoes have passed harmlessly under the (empty) troopships. The Rauenfels has been blown apart! The three RN Destroyers were all in the blast zone and two received damage. You wait for the debris to stop falling and the smoke to clear.
Game Turn 6. Wilhelm Heidkamp (WH) changed targets and fires at HMS Hunter, at range 2 medium – one mid-ship hit. Hardy fires at WH with guns and torpedoes! Range is short but somehow the torpedoes miss. The gunfire hit mid-ships damaging the boiler room and starting fires. Damage parties are struggling against the fires but electrical systems are repaired. Z19 Hermann Kunne (HK) fires guns at Hunter. Range is medium. A solid two hits mid-ships. Z18 Hans Ludemann (HL) changed targets to HMS Hunter, range is long – no hits. HMS Hardy (Har), all guns that bear fire at WH. Range is short and despite your command and control damage reducing your effectiveness, you see at least one solid mid-ship hit on WH. The starboard torpedo salvo at the WH missed. Relieved that none of the enemy appear to be targeting Hardy, damage control parties are hard at it. HMS Havoc (Hav), the smoke from the exploded ship and the weather conditions reduces her visibility and she can only see the two freighters immediately ahead and the listing tanker further to the north. She fires at the nearest freighter unaware that Hunter is the other side and in the firing line. You see a hit on freighter 3. Currently the enemy cannot see Havoc and for a moment the Germans think she has sunk. HMS Hunter. (Hun), was divided between moving in support of the damaged Hardy and finishing off the moored merchants. Moving east guns are fired at freighter 3. Point blank range but no hits. Hunter is not happy with her marksmanship or with some of Havoc’s fire missing the enemy and almost hitting Hunter. Also, all three enemy destroyers are firing at Hunter and she is hit twice mid-ships. Engine and boiler rooms are damaged, fires begin to spread, and the wireless room is destroyed. Damage control parties are struggling with the fires but hydraulic and electrical systems are repaired. (Umpire’s note: good job that your steering is still working or you would be running aground to the East).
Game Turn 7 HMS Hardy. (Har) moves North West and changes target to Hans Ludemann (HL) and fire all guns that bear. Range is long, command and control damage reduces effectiveness but solid mid-ship hit on HL is obtained. A penetrating hit damaging boiler and engine rooms. There are secondary explosions and HL damage control parties are hard pressed. Electrical and hydraulic lines have running repairs. Hardy is relieved that again none of the enemy appear to be targeting her, damage control parties are still hard at it bringing the stern fires under control. Superstructure is damaged beyond belief. HMS Havoc (Hav) passes Hunter going the other way and emerging from the smoke from the exploded ammo ship and the snow flurries, the Wilhelm Heidkamp is at short range and a salvo hits WH on the bow, destroying one bow gun and starting fires below decks. Damage control parties quickly repair electrical power lines but the fires on WH threaten to spread! Wispy smoke is rising from Havoc mid-ships. HMS Hunter (Hun) avoiding the moored freighters and Havoc heading North West, had to act decisively to avoid running aground. North, South or reverse course were all possibilities and Umpire’s die roll resulted in a move to the South. Choice of target was also up for debate with Freighter 2 being the lucky winner. Short range, the result is one hit. To Hunter’s dismay, Hermann Kunne (HK) emerges from the smoke and has her at short range. Fortunately for hunter, only her bow guns bear. Unfortunately for Hunter, WH targets her through the smoke and HL targets Hunter at medium range. Hunter is lucky that only superstructure damage is the result of the enemy’s concentrated fire. Damage control parties are struggling with the existing fires and they remain hard pressed. White and black smoke is rising from Hunter mid-ships. HK pursues Hunter.
Game Turn 8 Mar 19. Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp (WH) heading West changes targets to Havoc (Hav) and despite the short range misses. The damage control parties are fighting fires below decks. Hardy fires at WH at long range and misses due to her command and control damage, range and change of target. Hardy’s damage control parties have stopped the stern fires from reaching the magazine but smoke is rising from the damaged superstructure. Havoc fires at WH and hits in engineering and on the bridge killing the bridge crew including Kommodore Friedrich Bonte. The Germans are unaware that the same fate has already befallen the enemy flotilla leader. (See GT5) Z19 Hermann Kunne (HK) heading South West fires at Hunter (Hun) at short range. Mid-ship hits, smoke and flames, causing internal explosions and spreading fires which the damage control parties are finding impossible to bring under control. Hunter fires at you damaging your boiler room and superstructure. The bridge crew narrowly avoid the same fate as the WH. Z18 Hans Ludemann (HL) changes target to HMS Havoc, range is short. A hit on the stern gun and fire threatens to reach the magazine! Damage control parties are well trained and swing into action.
Game Turn 9 After some poor shooting by both sides up to now, at last some improved accuracy and increased damage is achieved. Z21 Wilhelm Heidkamp (WH) moving North and then West, fires again at Havoc and despite command and control damage and only having one bow gun achieves two mid-ship hits. One hit is near the waterline and the other on the superstructure. Havoc floods the forward magazine to avoid a disaster. Her undamaged bow guns are now therefore useless. Range direction, comms and hydraulic systems are damaged. Havoc’s damage control parties are now being overwhelmed by the existing and this new damage. WH damage control parties are continuing to fight fires below decks. Havoc fires at you at short range but only her bow guns bear and no hits are made. Z19 Hermann Kunne (HK) is consistent and the pursuit of Hunter continues. HK fires at Hunter (Hun) at point blank range – mid-ship hits, smoke, flames and damage to the superstructure, internal explosions, flooding, engine room damage, serious fires and damage to secondary systems. Hunter’s damage control parties are overwhelmed. HMS Hardy (Har) decided that the ship doubles back to the aid of Hunter and moves South East and then South. Targeting Hermann Kunne (HK) she fires all guns that bear – as she crossed her bows. Range is short but command and control damage, reduces effectiveness. One hit on the bow of HK. Smoke is still rising from Hardy’s damaged stern and superstructure.
Game Turn 10 HMS Hardy (Har) turns NW heading towards the open sea. Targeting Hermann Kunne (HK) with the undamaged stern gun that bears, range is short – a miss. HK fires a torpedo salvo and all four torpedoes pass on the port side. HK fires at Hardy from undamaged stern guns and one bow gun. A hit mid-ships and internal explosions rock Hardy. More fires begin. Hunter fires at HK again and hits, damaging engine and boiler rooms. Fires on HK threaten to rage out of control. Hunter and HK are steaming parallel, SW. HMS Havoc. (Hav) fires stern guns at Hans Ludemann (HL) and miss despite the short range. Starboard torpedoes are fired at Wilheim Heidkamp (WH). As WH is stern on, all torpedoes miss. WH fires undamaged stern guns at Havoc, hitting mid-ships. Secondary explosions destroy crew quarters, the galley and machine spaces. Hans Ludemann (HL) moved South and changed course to SW 225. This course opens the firing arcs and the target was HMS Havoc again, range short. No hits.
At this point the game ends. Bloody noses all round. Hardy and HL appear to be heading for each other. Havoc has every chance of making the open sea. Hunter and HK are trying to see which one sinks first.
The final Damage % Table for the game is as follows:
The German Tanker Jan Wellem sank as the game ended. A loss felt severely by the fuel short Kriegsmarine. Both sides lost their commanding officer in the mayhem. A narrow victory for the Kriegsmarine, 769 points to the RN’s 665.