Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Battle in the Straits - a Russo-Japanese naval game

It has been quite some time since Steve and I had a naval game, so as a change from Lion Rampaant and Pike and Shotte we dusted off the models and went east.  As can be seen from the photograph, a small island divides the Qundao straits.  In the distance the channel leads up to Port Arthur and a Russian naval squadron can be seen steaming towards the open sea.  The Japanese are trying to lay mines in the channels to avoid any disruption to their trade routes by the Russian fleet.  If they can mine both channels it is a Japanese success, one channel a draw, no channels a Russian success.  The dice decreed that I should command the Japanese fleet, 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, a minelayer and three destroyers.  Opposing me was a similar sized Russian fleet.

My plan was to try and mine the eastern (righthand channel) first and then try to mine the other one. I therefore sent the the two cruisers towards the western channel at a leisurely pace, hoping to draw part of the Russian force in that direction.  Once the enemy were committed to the western channel, the cruisers were to increase speed and move towards the eastern channel to support operations there.

The Japanese squadron heads towards the straits
At first things seemed to be going to plan; the cruisers moved to the west and the destroyers moved forward to protect the large ships from the enemy destroyers  I placed the minelayer at the rear of the column out of harms way and steamed north towards the eastern channel.  Even better, the Russians split their force, sending two ships towards the western channel, what could possibly go wrong?  I was soon to find out.

The two destroyer flotillas quickly closed the range and opened fire on each other, the Japanese got slightly the worse of the exchanges and I foolishly decided to pull my destroyers back to preserve their torpedo capability (if a destroyer suffers too much damage it cannot launch torpedoes).  This opened the door for Steve, who promptly pressed home an attack on my leading battleship, the Mikasa.  The Borodino had already engaged the Mikasa at long range and a 'lucky' shot had knocked out the gunnery control, reducing the effectiveness of the  Japanese ship's  salvoes.   Now, with every gun that could bear the Mikasa was trying to sink the attacking destroyers.  One was driven off, badly disabled, but the other managed to fire a torpedo and this hit its target causing substantial damage.

The torpedo attack on the Mikasa
Undaunted, I ploughed on hoping that I could at least seriously damage the Russian battleships.  One, the Navarin exchanged broadsides with the Mikasa and the Fuji and was fast approaching the minelayer, so that was ordered to make full steam away from danger.  My destroyers, after sinking their opposite numbers attempted to come to her aid, but they were too late.  One of the Russian cruisers in the western channel, the Bogatyr, opened fire at long range.  The shell hit, causing a small fire.  As the crew laboured to douse this, a salvo arrived from the Navarin.  The minelayer staggered under the impact of the heavy shells and when a second salvo hit the ship disappeared in a massive explosion.

The destroyer flotillas engage
With all hope of a successful outcome gone, I turned my remaining ships for home. The Mikasa and Fuji had pounded the Borodino but had not achieved a decisive result, other than starting a fire.  In return the Mikasa had had its fore turret knocked out and the Fuji had lost its gunnery control. My cruisers had managed to inflict some damage on the Russians, one of their cruisers being on the verge of foundering, but the price was heavy, the Akashi being sunk.  So with two ships lost and my flagship requiring a lengthy refit it was hardly an auspicious day for the IJN.

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