Our order of battle:
is a welcome sight. Her armour and 9'' guns will help a lot in any cruiser engagement. Izumi will be a good scout and harrier; the DDs can screen, or circumvent the convoy's defensess and strike quickly if an opening should be found. This is, in many respects, the perfect convoy attack force and Captain Yonehara of the Asama
is very pleased with his flotilla.
Interestingly, the Marianas are so far away from our current bases that Izumi
arrives with half of her coal bunkers empty. Of course, this is because she was pulled out of patrol without having the time to refuel; she has more than enough fuel to return to Formosa, but we'll need to be stingy with her fuel consumption.
We spot the enemy!
Captain Yamamoto of the Izumi
provides us with a meteorological report. We have 10 hours of daylight ahead of us; the weather is clear and likely to remain so, with a stiff breeze blowing from the East. This is important; an Easterly wind blows the smoke of our funnels toward the west. If the enemy lies to the west of our ships, then the smoke of our funnels might blow in front of our rangefinders. If possible, we want to be to the west of our enemies.
We identify the lead enemy ship; it's a Gazelle
-class Light Cruiser. It's truly small, two thirds of Izumi's size, two knots slower (so she can't escape), only slightly more armoured (she's got an extra half inch of belt armour), has two less torpedo mounts and considerably weaker armament (a five 5''-gun broadside). This is clearly a (poor) raider design: she's too slow to be a DD-killer, doesn't have enough armour to stand up to an Armoured Cruiser and deosn't have guns big enough to fight a bigger Light Cruiser at range. All she can do reliably is go hunt transports.
She's escorted by another (as of yet unidentified) cruiser and a couple of those:
These are gunships, in contrast to my torpedo boats. Note that they have secondary batteries
. More importantly, they've got an extra knot on my DDs. Now this
is a good design, Germany.
The enemy line turns to the north in a sweeping arc and we get to identify the second cruiser as well.
-class. She's a smaller Izumi
, worse in every respect. but I imagine she's also considerably cheaper to produce, which explains how the Germans have so many of them.
The enemy line sails northward, and we get to see their convoy. The cowards are allowing us free reign over the unarmed transports!
Except for those two brave DD captains, who charge into my cruisers in a desperate attempt to defend their charges. Captain Yonehara of the Asama
asks his lookouts to note their hull numbers; if they should be sunk here today, he is determined to forward a report of their bravery to the enemy Command.
But, meanwhile, he will not be stopped. At flank speed, he brings his task force into the enemy convoy, keeping the Asama
's port secondary battery on the frantically evading DDs. The IJN ships cut through the enemy transports like a divine wind.
These are unarmoured ships; it only takes a couple of 6'' HE shots to put one in the bottom.
The HQ had charged Yonehara to sink at least two enemy transports; he annihilates
...and then turns his attention to the enemy cruisers, who are actually slower
than him and trying to escape. Izumi is assigned screening duties off his port side; there's no reason to risk her poor armour against even the German 5'' popguns. Asama
closes the range and scores first blood on the Gazelle
Meanwhile, our DDs are picking up survivors from the gutted convoy. A true samurai does not make war on merchants or civilians. These men will be treated with respect and repatriated, adding to the prestige and honour of our mighty fleet!
The Asami and Izumi keep closing the range. 6'' guns slam into one of the German DDs; her starboard side is riddled with shrapnel; she lists and capsizes.
(Note the noted top speed of 3 knots. This is the game's way of telling you that this ship is sinking and cannot be saved).
A dramatic chase ensues, with Asama inching closer, her 9'' guns on rapid-fire. Unfortunately, her gunnery against the frantically evading Germans scores no hits; her ammo stockpiles are dangerously low.
Yonehara, despairing, charges the enemy like Nelson, aiming to cut inside their line and rake their lightly armoured bows and sterns at close range. Izumi
stays close to him and readies her own broadsides.
Disaster strikes. While Asama
is smashing the Gazelle
into a pulp, the Hela
scores a close-range hit on Izumi
's engine room. Unfortunately, her coal bunkers are empty
and cannot mitigate the blow. The shells punch through and reach the vitals of the ship. Twenty men die instantly, scalded by the escaping steam. The feeding tanks are compromised. Salt water clogs the boilers; Izumi staggers and comes to a halt, dead in the water. Yamamoto directs damcon crews to their stations and orders rapid fire on the Hela
, to keep her away, but Izumi
is a sitting duck.
DDs to the rescue!
Flotilla leader Togo of the Numakaze
brings his ships danger-close to the DD-killing 5'' guns of the Hela
, at flank speed, and dumps two torps on her. One hits and the Hela
slows to five knots and lists.
The DDs circle her like sharks, putting another torpedo into her. Tragically, it is in this moment of triumph that Shiokaze
takes a massive hit from two of her 5'' guns, but stays in the fight. It would be much later, far too late
that her crew would realise the extent of the damage.
The aftermath. Two enemy cruisers and an enemy DD sunk; four transports sunk and more are sinking. Both Japanese capital ships still afloat; as the threat from the Hela
was dealt with, Yamamoto got his engines back on-line relatively quickly, managing a top speed of 16 knots.
Night has fallen and our flotilla sets a course for home.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes in the journey back. Shiokaze
signals the flagship; she is taking on water and cannot stop the flooding. Her officers are dead or wounded; her crew desperate. Yonehara does not want to accept it, initially, but the reports coming in soon make it clear that there is no saving her.
At 22:20, Shiokaze
slips beneath the waves, all her surviving crew having abandoned her in good order. May the Kami of the sea ease her on her journey - she was a brave little ship.
Captain Sagara, her CO and most of her surviving crew would later be assigned to the Asanagi-Kai
, but that's a story for another time.
The remaining ships were greeted as heroes upon their return. The Army in particular were very grateful of the Navy blockading the Marianas. Spirits were high; after these two victories, it was expected for the war to be over soon.
After all, Japan now had a reasonable tonnage advantage in light forces, which the Admiralty considered crucial for securing control of the Pacific (although, notably, the German heavy cruisers were still a formidable force).
However, lessons were learned as well. It became part of official doctrine that ANY ship taking on water uncontrollably would immediately report its condition to its division leader, so that appropriate action could be taken. Japan could ill afford to lose her ships like Shiokaze
had been lost.
This brought August 1901 to a close.
In September, the predictions of the Admiralty were confirmed, when Germany made her first overtures for peace. Original suggestions were for a white peace, with no change in borders and only minimal concessions. The Navy was, obviously, incensed
and found an ally in the hawkish nationalist party of the opposition. Withering criticisms directed toward the governenment and the express displeasure of the Emperor derailed any peace negotiations, until such a time as Germany would acknowledge that she was in no position to dictate terms.
Our scientists continud to focus their efforts on improving the secondary batteries of our ships, but achieved no practical results as of yet.
And those freaking Gainjin raiders continued sinking our merchantmen. Well, after our recent haul, we can't really complain, especially since we have very few ships to spare for raiding duties ourselves.
They're trying AGAIN?