FROM: SMS ELSASS, FLAGSHIP NRDSFLTTE.
TO: ADMR01, WLSHVN; HELGCMD.
-URGENT URGENT. EMERGENCY DISPATCH, LEVEL ALBRECHT. URGENT URGENT-
CODE FREYA RPT CODE FREYA. CONTACT WITH ENEMY FORCES AT 5633N 00439E. SCHLACHTKREUZER UNDER FIRE. VIP VALKYRIE 3 UNDER THREAT. SCHLACHTSCHIFFE ENGAGING. ADVISE ADVISE ADVISE.
-Wireless message sent to German HQ upon first contact on the Skaggerak"The very incarnation of our victorious legacy on the High Seas is here to watch us, today. Her eyes are upon you, men of Germany. Make her proud. As for myself, may the Almighty God stand as my witness, I shall give my life before disgracing myself before our Valkyrie. Leutnant von Trier,
nail our ensign to the mast."
-Konteradmiral Michaelis, during the opening stages of the Skaggerakschlacht.
15 August 1929. The Japanese liner Haguro Maru
is misidentified as the English troopship HMS Godalming
off New Zealand by the German submarine U-211. The civilian death toll is catastrophic and the Japanese, rightfully, scream bloody murder. The German Admiralität
immediately enters into negotiations for reparations. There is no escaping the reality of this war crime; the morale and prestige of the Kaleuns
For a short while, that is. A week later, the U-139
surfaces to attack what she believes is an unarmed British freighter. It turns out that it is, in fact, an armed merchant cruiser operating as a Q-ship: the Bleamoor
Herbert Ritter is taken utterly by surprise, but he rallies and leads his submarine crew in a brilliantly fought gunnery duel, followed by the boarding and scuttling of the British ship. This gallant naval action considerably helps in boosting German morale.
Their late-summer haul is not as massive as those of earlier months, but it still puts a considerable dent in British supplies.
This, followed by the Italians tightening their blockade of Malta and Cyprus...
...leads to the first peace overtures from Mosley's regime.
If these had come three, or even two months ago, Stresemann and the Kaiser would have agreed to reasonable terms. However, the current fragile state of the Mosley regime after the early-summer purges, and the Kaiser's own rancor towards what he perceived to be a polity utterly hostile to the German royalist principles led to Stresemann pushing for much more than Mosley was willing to consider offering. The peace talks, facilitated by France, quickly ground to a halt and hostilities resumed.
Eager to atone for the Haguro Maru
disaster, the German Kaleuns
leave their pens with renewed vigour and a daredevil attitude. In a move that stuns the Brits, the U-220
finds her way into Scapa Flow and torpedoes HMS Queen Elizabeth
before making good her escape. The British manage to save the ship, but extensive repairs are necessary before she can sail again.
In addition, U-199
engages the minesweeper HMS Herst
and sinks her in a surface duel...
...while the rest of the U-bootflotte
carves a massive chunk out of the British merchant marine.
Yes, we know.
triggers of the event this month? Holy crap. There's only one possible response to that.
Italy and the US continue to be good allies, sinking British merchant traffic and blockading the Far Eastern ports, respectively. It must be said that the US invasion of Hong Kong has stalled. The local British forces are displaying commendable heroism in the defense of their territories; the Heeresleitung
are currently deliberating on how to best break the stalemate.
It is at this point that the repairs of the mined Moltke
are completed. At this point, the British fleet has been mauled to such an extent that Emden is judged to be relatively safe for the old darling. She is cleared to return to her old dock space, and she is given an honorary escort in what is, essentially, the entirety of the German battleline during her trip.
But, now that she is on the open sea once again, the spirit of the old Valkyrie calls out to battle one last time; and Odin, from the halls of Valhalla, answers her call. As she crests Denmark, a storm forces the fleet to redirect to the north-west, near Skaggerak. The ships suffer only minimal damage but, as the storm clears, on the early morning of 8 September, the scouting elements spot smoke on the horizon.
Lots of smoke.
What's left of the British Grand Fleet has sortied in force to intercept what they perceive to be a German blockade run. A battle is inevitable.
The Moltke is following Hindenburg
, her old packmate. She bears only a skeleton crew and is in no
condition to fight. For one thing, she carries no ammunition. It falls to the three Zähringen
-class ships to delay the enemy until she can escape.
The old German behemoths will only need to buy a little time, for Michaelis is right on their tail, with a terrifying Schlachtschiff
squadron. He is flying his flag on the Elsass
and is closely followed by Hannover, Schwaben, Brandenburg
. He will be in firing range soon.
These are good news for the crews of the Zähringen
. Their Zerstörer
screen quickly identifies the incoming British ships. There are at least two modern battlecruisers out there, and one of them is a Tiger
are terrifying ships, with a ten-gun 16'' broadside, and a deck that can easily defeat the German 12-inchers at range. The German ships immediately
perform a Gefechtskehrtwendung
, as the first 16'' shells land around them, from far outside their own effective range. One strikes the Graf Spee
, causing light flooding on her portside compartments.
But then, the commander of the Schlachtkreuzer
force, Konteradmiral Görtz, realises that his maneuver exposes the Moltke
to enemy fire and turns, once again, to interpose his ships between the fleeing Valkyrie and their pursuers. The old German Leviathans lock onto the silhouettes of the pursuing British and open fire, at the extreme range of their old 12-inchers.
This happens. It is insane
It should not be possible
. But somehow
the triplets score repeated hits on the Tiger
, and the Mackensen
one of her escorts with her secondaries.
The German Schlachtkreuzer
continue their retreat in good order towards the east. Michaelis is getting closer. He can barely
see their smoke on the horizon.
And then, from his perspective, the western horizon erupts in a white flash and a mushroom cloud ascends into the heavens. He frantically tries to raise the Schlachtkreuzer
, demanding a sitrep. Several long minutes pass until a reply is received from the Mackensen
: TARGET CAPITAL SHIP MAGAZINE EXPLOSION. MINIMAL DAMAGE RECEIVED IN RETURN. VALKYRIE SAFE. CONTINUING ENGAGEMENT.
And suddenly, the balance of power is much more even. Instead of three modern battlecruisers against three obsolescent Schlachtkreuzer
, the odds are now three against two (the Hindenburg
is retreating at flank, with Moltke
following closely). Görtz vaccilates for an instant; and then turns his aging leviathans around, seeking a close-range brawl. The Graf Spee
takes a penetrating hit from the retreating Tiger
, but the honorary Valkyrie pushes forward undeterred, to protect her older sister.
Her lookouts tentatively identify more smoke on the western horizon; and Görtz
assumes a northbound course. Just in time, too. As she turns, a 16'' shell from the Tiger
strikes her armoured belt and ricochets off.
Her crew rejoice. The Old Lady fears nothing! With Michaelis steaming closer by the minute, this battle seems to be-BAM
straddles her. One shell strikes her belt, and this time the AP cap does its job all too well. The shell buries itself deep into the Graf's
engineering spaces and detonates.
Hydraulics are shot to Kingdom Come. Electricity flickers throughout the ship. Internal bulkheads buckle like tissue paper. And saltwater floods the feed tanks, killing almost half of her effective boilers. In an instant, Görtz's flagship loses seven knots of speed...
her 'C' turret. Her crew grit their teeth and hunker down for the fight, many of them nervously fingering the silvered Valkyrie pins they bear on their caps. She has suffered worse. She'll survive this, as she has survived in the past.Where is the enemy?
In the smoke and the morning haze, the Graf's
lookouts have lost their targets. They nervously scan the horizon, and finally manage to locate two distant silhouettes towards the west.
That's more than enough for Zähringen
, who charges in all guns blazing, in defense of her wounded sister. Her entire broadside thunders; a spark of light blossoms on her target.
A few minutes later, she does it again
. Targets confirmed. At least two British battlecruisers are still out there, shadowing the Schlachtkreuzer
. The haze clears for a few minutes, just enough for the Zähringen's
rangefinders to get a good lock on one of them...
And the Old Sister's next salvo scores five hits on the British ship, at a range of over 10k yards. It's a massive
And the sharp crack-booms of the Old Sister's guns is punctuated (oh sweet, sweet sound!) by the distant throaty roar of 14'' and 15'' batteries. Finally, finally
have gotten close enough to join the fight.
Not against the ships that are engaging the Schlachtkreuzer
, however. The lookouts on the Brandenburg
have spotted an Australia
-class battlecruiser closing in from the south.
Oh, dear me, Australia. You do not
want to be there.
Oh. Oh God. No, you definitely
don't want to be there.
Meanwhile, the Schlachtkreuzer
have moved towards the north, using the morning haze to dance in and out of the British spotting range. This leads to considerable confusion amongst the lookouts of both sides. Both British and German lookouts only see dark shapes and muzzle flashes; and both commanders think that they are still engaging the enemy's batlecruisers. But, in fact, the Dreadnoughts of both fleets have now sailed into gunnery range; and they are both charging in to destroy what they think will be easy targets.
06:42: the lookouts on Elsass
report to Michaelis that he is, in fact, facing a trio of Europa
-class Superdreadnoughts. At a range of less than 10k yards
. The blood drains from Michaelis' face. That's thirty six
16-inchers staring down the German ships.
And, just to punctuate the seriousness of the situation, a 16'' shell strikes the Schwaben's
belt and penetrates like a hot knife through butter.
Amidst the chaos of her damacon crews rushing to quench the flames and provide help to the casualties, it takes the gunners on board the German Schlachtschiffe
scant seconds to train their batteries against the Europas
. A broadside thunders out; the 'A' Turret of the leading Europa
cracks like an egg.
From the north, the Zähringen
rushes back, to shield the wounded Graf
. Her gunners take the chance to pump two 12-inch shells into a Prince of Wales
-class ship, that had attempted to close the range to the crippled German giant. However, the Brits receive reinforcements as well. From the south, a two-ship squadron consisting of a Royal Sovereign
and a Revenge
-class dreadnought join the fray, knocking out a turret on the Schwaben
and the Hannover
And then, the battle-lines are fully formed, for a gruelling engagement that will last for half an hour. On the British side, from north to south: a Camperdown
-class dreadnought; a two-ship squadron consisting of the Prince of Wales
and an Albion
; the Empress of India
; the three Europas
; the Revenge
, the Royal Sovereign
. On the German side, the proud silhouette of the Elsass
leads the battle-line. Behind her, the Hannover
, the Schwaben
, the Brandenburg
and the Wettin
. The Graf
has detached, and is making its way back to Germany at five knots; her sisters have slipped behind the battle-line and are moving from north to south, peppering the distant British ships (especially that overambitious Camperdown
with long-range 12'' fire.
The leading British ships are pummeled
. The Camperdown
loses turrets to the shells of the Schlachtkreuzer
like firecrackers; the Europas
(by far the most dangerous British capitals) are focused down by the Schlachtschiffe
. In return, the Schwaben
suffers an upper belt penetration that punches into a secondary battery magazine. But her deck and secondary turrets have specific weakpoints, designed
to fail during a flash fire. One of her portside secondary turrets erupts like a roman candle, killing the gunnery crew in a bright instant, but the ship is safe.
At this point, the British have suffered considerably. Michaelis' grip on the railings of the Elsass'
bridge has turned his knuckles white; it is imperative that his nerves outlast those of his enemy. The British must
break before he does. The German battle-line must not
turn away from this no-holds-barred brawl.
And then, finally, the lookouts cry out that the enemy fleet is maneuvering - in a rather strange fashion. It takes Michaelis a few minutes to piece together the different reports and realise that the Brits are attempting their own version of the Gefechtskehrtwendung
Unfortunately for the British, it is clear that their training in this maneuver (which requires pinpoint precision and nerves of steel) has been insufficient. They cock it up royally
. The leading ships 'break' under fire, and turn before the following ones, a mark of shame that leaves the crews of the German Schlachtkreuzer
scoffing. The end result is a chaotic blob, in which ships maneuver frantically to avoid collisions, while the Germans pick their targets with impunity.
It is the British destroyers that save their larger wards in this instance. They lay a large smokescreen, into which the silhouettes of the British capitals fade away from the German directors. In response, Michaelis performs his own Gefechtskehrtwendung
, slotting the entirety of his fleet behind the Zähringens
that are moving towards the south. He is seeking alternative firing angles and a clear shot.
And he succeeds shortly after, spotting the British ships as they leave the cover of their smokescreen.
He manages to reacquire the Camperdown
(which has been effectively mission-killed by the Zähringens
), the Royal Sovereign
and the Prince of Wales
. The British are still desperately trying to reorganise their fleet.
Now the battle is at close-range. No battle-line niceties; only the brutal, knife-fighting slugfests in which the German ships excel. The Zähringens
lock onto the Camperdown
...and finish her off with two 'shotgun' salvos.
Then, as the British destroyers charge in to intercept them, they pull away, trying to reform a battle-line moving WNW - ESE.
It works. As the British ships still try to form up, the Schlachtschiffe
reacquire the Empress of India
and what seems to be two previously unspotted targets: a Rodney
-class Dreadnought and an Argonaut
-class battlecruiser. The Germans lock onto the two southernmost targets and open fire.
One of the Europas
is here as well, her two sisters still lost somewhere in the smoke. The old Zähringen
is on her immediately
, pumping three 12''hots into her belt before she even realises she's under fire.Wham
At this point, Michaelis demands a sitrep from his capital assets. He wants to know if he can still pursue a battle, or if he needs to be satisfied with the damage he has inflicted already. It's worth reminding that the Germans were not
anticipating this battle.
The impression he is left with is that of a still very capable fleet. Zähringen
is leading the charge and is running low on ammunition, but she has scored almost 40 confirmed hits on the enemy, suffering only ten in return. Her engines are pristine; her crew are the best of the best and eager to continue. She has, however, lost her aft fire controller. Mackensen
is suffering more, having lost almost the entirety of her starboard secondaries, with horrendous crew losses. Her two midships turrets are jammed, but her remaining guns are firing accurately, having scored more than 50 hits. Critically, she has suffered no underwater damage.
Among the Schlachtschiffe
, the Hannover
is by far the most damaged, having taken more than 35 hits on her belt and superstructure. Her secondary batteries have suffered more than 50% casualties; however, her crew are baying for blood. Elites, one and all, and working with the best fire control systems Germany can bring to the table, she has paid back the Brits blow for blow and can still fight at peak efficiency. Schwaben
is relatively untouched, with an equally skilled crew; 50 confirmed hits on her logs, for only 8 taken in return. The only thing she's lost is a secondary turret; she's currently halfway kicking the ass of the Prince of Wales
back to Wales itself. Brandenburg
has not suffered a single hit so far; despite working with an older fire control suite, inferior guns, and a less-experienced crew, she has still managed to score 33 hits and is currently acquiring new targets as they exit the smokescreen. Wettin
has done even better, with 40 hits scored; proud Elsass
brings up the end of the battle-line with 40 hits scored and minimal damage.
Michaelis is satisfied, and is about to order a continuation of the fight, when the Elsass
acquires a British heavy cruiser leaving the smoke. She's one of their most modern beasts: an Andromeda
, made to counter the German supercruisers, with a 10-gun 10'' broadside and a 30-knot top speed. Unfortunately for her, she has trespassed within the firing range of the German flagship.
And, despite her fearsome broadside, the Andromeda's
armour is paper against the German 15-inchers.Again
the British destroyers rush to defend the capitals. Again
a smokescreen obscures the British ships from the German optics.
The unfortunate Prince of Wales
drifts out of the smoke, uncontrollable, and is punished severely; but the rest of the British fleet is now safely withdrawing from the field. Michaelis considers pursuing, but decides against it. He could, theoretically, cause more damage to the enemy; but he would also brave the gauntlet of the (worryingly competent) British destroyer commander and his torpedoes all the way. For once, no German ships have been torpedoed in a fleet engagement; there is no need to tempt Fortuna any further.
By 18:00, both fleets have disengaged and are returning to their home waters. But the Germans have one last surprise in store for the Brits.U-1
, the first German submarine to have ever been built
, now a rebuilt training ship for submarine crews, happens to be in the area and receives the radio chatter from the battle. Instead of retreating to safe waters, her veteran commander (and Academy Instructor) Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière took the old beer can on an intercept course
. In a night-time torpedo assault, he scored a hit on HMS Ceasar
, a hit that caused massive panic amongst the retreating enemy ships. The Ceasar
was barely saved, but missed the rest of the war. What an achievement by the old darling!
9 September 1929, 10:00am. The Moltke
enters Wilhelmshaven, fully illuminated and sirens blaring, to dock next to the old Goeben
. The Valkyrie brings news of a victory unlike any seen before since the days of Bornholm!
The Brits have lost three dreadnoughts, two battlecruisers and the Andromeda
Their biggest loss is, undoubtedly, the Tiger
, lost in the opening stages of the fight with all hands.
The old Redoutable
died slower and messier, as the charnelhouse Camperdowns
were wont to do. Every single one of her turrets was penetrated: her crew was decimated before she sank.
The Empress of India
-class HMS Benbow
was a reservist ship, her crew green from the docks of Scarborough. Her death was an ignoble thing, due to bad damcon.
And the poor Australia
-class HMS Queen Mary
was just thrown away. A ship like this had no business being anywhere near
a modern battlefield.
Nor did HMS Prince of Wales
. This is a ship that even Moltke
could have tackled.
MVP on the German side? SMS Schwaben
, hands down: just under 1000 shots fired, with 70 confirmed main battery hits, for an accuracy ratio of 7.5%. Mad props to old Mackensen
as well: she came in second at hits scored, with 63 shots on target.
What a victory is Jutland!