Encouraged by Ikoma's
success, the Admiralty channeled more funds into Kongou's
The old battleships were well and truly getting obsolete now; Hatsuse
was showing her age with frequent engine problems. It was imperative that new capital ships be launched to take up their duties.
The Japanese subs and raiders gave a decent showing of themselves. I-12 was lost with all hands off Java, but took her targets along with her; the Maru boys reaped bloody vengeance on the German sub U-7.
And then, on the 19th of July....Ikoma's
second encounter with the enemy would take place in the aftermath of a failed coastal raid, originally meant to soften up the German defenses in Kiautschou Bay. The bombarding force, conisting of Fuso
, with an escorting force had been forced to cancel the attack, as the weather had steadily worsened, from a stiff breeze to one of the strongest Summer gales in the last decade. Visibility was reduced and the escorting destroyers had significant trouble with the rough seas.Ikoma
and her own flotilla were on the way to join up with the retreating force and provide support, if necessary, when first contact was made, at 10:22 in the morning.Ikoma
immediately turned hard a' starboard, to unshadow her portside batteries; she opened fire with her 10'' secondary turret. Amazingly, despite the wind and the rain, despite the heavy seas, despite having been surprised and despite only having the most basic of fire control systems (the secondary turrets were not linked to Ikoma's
central firing control), the shells from both 10'' rifles hit the target
As the enemy ship maneuvered frantically to open the range, Ikoma's
fire control identified her as a Niobe
-class - possibly the same ship that had killed Asanagi
Seeing an opportunity to get some payback, Nagumo ordered pursuit, joining up with the Fuso
Success! Just before noon, Asama
both report contacts closing in. Asama
signals that she's taking fire from heavy batteries - there's something with big guns out there - a heavy cruiser or worse.
hazards a closer pass and gets a faceful of Niobe
buckshot for her troubles. Asama
returns fire as Ikoma
rushes to engage and scores a hit on an enemy heavy cruiser. Then, from out of the mists....Izumo
close the range and get a positive ID on the cruiser: she's a Fuerst Bismarck
-class, nearly a small pre-dread in her own right.Ikoma
immediately gives her the good news, with predictable results - two main battery hits with her first salvo.
Then she leaves the slower Fuso
to deal with her and turns north, to deal with a cheeky flanking heavy cruiser.
scores a hit on Ikoma's
main belt - the shell ricochets off, harmlessly. Ikoma
returns the favour.
Two shells hit the Hertha's
front turret almost simultaneously. The turret is blasted clear off its bearings and catapulted over the Hertha's
port side, cartwheeling in the air.
Then, Ikoma brings her port fish launchers to bear.
The torpedo hits the Hertha
on her stern, blowing her rudder and propellers clean off and collapsing the aft turret structure. The German cruiser is dead in the water and sinking; the entirety of the exchange has lasted less than 15 minutes.Ikoma
, once again, turns south, to hunt down what Nagumo assumes is the Von der Tann
. On the way, she runs into a cruiser division...
...and once again turns north to engage.
takes revenge for her earlier humiliation by scoring a hit on Ikoma's
aft turret and jamming it; two crewmembers are temporarily deafened by the gong-like sound, as the turret armor absorbs the hit but no casualties are taken.
Fearing a concentrated torpedo attack from the cruisers, Ikoma
peels off and joins Fuso
in hunting down a destroyer (!) Then, Nagumo orders Fuso and Asama to seek out that battleruiser; he will try to track down the cruisers. Unfortunately, his own search would prove useless.Fuso's
, however....not so much.
Now, under any other circumstances, it would be folly for an obsolete pre-dread to try and hunt down a modern battlecruiser. For one thing, it would be unable
best speed was 20 knots, versus the German's 25.
However, the circumstances of this case painted a different picture.
There was no way the Von der Tann
could make full speed because of the weather - that she was sailing against
, on the other hand, could only do 20 knots anyway - and her rested stokers were more than up to the task.
Also, the German's armor was crap compared to Fuso's.
And, unless she turned to present a broadside, she could only bring her aft turret to bear - so both ships could only fire 2 12'' guns at each other.
The Von der Tann
fled the engagement with every horsepower her engines could give her, like Hell itself were biting on her heels.Fuso
proceeds to fire her guns in a naval action for the first time - and what would prove to be her last. During the upcoming hour and a half (and until nightfall finally obscured the frantically retreating German) she scored thirteen
hits on her, one of which knocked out the battlecruiser's aft turret. Then, with a huff, the Lady of China deigned to return to formation.
Yeah, darling, you still got it.
Note that the only
ship to fire at the Von der Tann
during the entire engagement was Fuso
. She still knocked the German down to 'heavy damage'. Thank you, based ship.