"The neutralisation of the Japanese power in the South China Sea is a necessity for us. The Japanese, whether manipulated into this war by our perfidious enemies or not, have struck at us without warning, and threatened the safety of our citizens and our great Reich's interests in the Far East. A peace, therefore, can -and
must- only be concluded when their power is well and truly broken; when they can pose no threat to Germany any more.""From the moment the first shot was fired, we did not wish for a tentative peace; a peace that would burden us for many decades and would draw us ever back to the Far East. We wish for a peace that will allow us a free development and security for our new blood, in Europe and overseas!"
-Excerpt from a Parliamentary speech by Herzog Johann Albrecht von Mecklenburg, Reichskanzler, 6th September 1913.
September rolls in; the R & D department submits designs for even more efficient pumps. The Moltke
incident is still a black mark in the Admiralität
, and focus is still primarily given to safeguarding ships from torpedo attack; or, at least, preventing them from succumbing to it. Especially against the dastardly Japanese!
In addition, Galster and Büchsel work together to streamline and introduce new fleet cruising formations; formations that will facilitate rapid deployment into line-of-battle if attacked by light forces.
They are still underway and experimenting when the first reports for the month start coming in. The death toll for the U-Boote includes a modern Japanese destroyer and a coastal patrol vessel; not to mention ten merchantmen. The Japanese counter-offensive is weak, in comparison: they are clearly still unfamiliar with the intricacies of underwater warfare.
And, with regards to their surface raiders, the arrival of the German Schlachtkreuzer
on-station sounds the death-knell for the light Japanese cruisers. The Izumi
is tracked down by Wittelsbach
, which is faster and infinately better armed and armoured; the Japanese cruiser is lost on the 26th of the month, trying to sneak into the Marianas hunting grounds.
But the Japanese draw blood in return. Despite the warnings of the Admiralität
, the Heer
had pushed on with the proposed Korean offensive. They had smashed headlong into one of the most fortified and fanatically defended territories in the world. Casualties were horrendous
; and the resulting rout tarnished the reputation of the Army for years. It fell to the Navy to pick up the pieces and, in some cases, even evacuate stranded personnel, after the inevitable Japanese counter-attack. This tied down the fleet in regrettable but necessary land support operations; establishing a tight blockade on the Japanese Home Islands was, unfortunately, delayed.
That said, the U-Boote were not idle. Wolfpacks sank fourteen Japanese freighters, some of which were valuable tankers meant to resupply the Korean offensive; and U-108 engaged in a victorious duel with a Japanese patrol vessel.
The Japanese strike back ineffectively. Their submarines are undersupplied and badly maintained; one of them is lost to German patrol vessels after one of only two successful ship attacks. Their raiders are, similarly, rather unsuccessful in their efforts. Naniwa
runs down the Vogel
, a seven-thousand ton freighter in the South Pacific; and the Itsukushima
surprises everyone when she, somehow
manages to sneak into the Mediterranean and sink the Nordsee
off Sardinia. Schlachtkreuzer
from the Atlantic are deployed to intercept her; somehow
she manages to escape. It is suspected that the British garrison at Gibraltar provides her with support, but that is never established beyond doubt.
Meanwhile, by the end of the month, the Wittelsbach
returns to her anti-raider patrols, and nabs the Unebi
November; the Admiralität
puts into effect its plan to establish a blockade and starve the Japanese into surrender. First, submarines are dispatched, to clear the sea of patrol vessels;
And then an all-out assault on Japanese merchant shipping is unleashed, with devastating results.
Finally, the fleet departs its harbours in the Southern Pacific and sails north. Galster, from on board the Hindenburg
, has intercepted Japanese communications that speak of a large convoy moving to resupply Korea, under heavy escort. He wishes to engage and sink it; and to cause as much damage to the Japanese battle-line as he can.
This is the first time (but not
the last), that a Wittelsbach
will see combat. Germany holds her collective breath.
It is the 12th of November; and Arcona
, sailing ahead of the German fleet, spots the enemy convoy south of the Korean peninsula. The local time is just before noon; the weather is cloudy, but the atmosphere is clear and the Germans have more than seven hours ahead of them until nightfall. The enemy spots Arcona
in return, as the German cruiser accellerates to intercept; and they immediately turn towards the north. The rest of the German battlefleet is almost ten thousand yards behind Arcona
are leading, with the older Victoria-Louise
cruisers (including Hertha
, now for the first time ever not flying Galster's flag) bringing up the rear.
Arcona continues her stellar scouting work; twenty minutes after first contact, she has identified a Hashidate
...and, inside the panicked ball of Japanese merchantmen, she also makes out the larger hulls of...
...and the Fuso
, the oldest Japanese battleship currently in service. Both ships are British-built, with 12-inch guns; they are almost half the size of the Wittelsbachs
, with less than half their broadside and can only make 18 knots to the German behemoths' 25. Sadly for the Japanese, they are, indeed, the heaviest ships they can field.Arcona
slows down and allows the battle-line to overtake her; the two Schlachtkreuzer
lumber past her at flank. Their batteries are already training to take the Japanese predreads under fire. Meanwhile, the cruisers are opening fire on the transports, who, in turn, are peeling off towards the north-west.
Galster will not allow them to escape. He turns his battle-line to the west, in pursuit; and lets his secondaries hammer the transports, keeping his main guns on the enemy capitals. His Zerstörer
flank from the east; and they blanket the convoy's path with torpedoes. An hour after the first shot is fired, four enemy transports are burning.
The Japanese battleships turn towards the east, to escape the guns of the Wittelsbachs
; but that brings them near the Zerstörer
. The V5
screams past the Yashima
at a range of under two thousand yards - and one of her torpedoes hits the enemy battlewagon on the aft.
Her rear turret jams, and the Schlachtkreuzer
train their guns away from her (they can catch up to her anytime, after all) and focus on the Japanese heavy cruiser Asama
, to the north.
Galster is vaccilating. The convoy is long-sunk, but he does not wish to close the range against the Japanese forces. The enemy still has several destroyers available; and all his ships are armed wit torpedoes. He brings the fleet around, trying to take stock of the situation.
And then, a massive fountain of water erupts from the side of the Fuso
. Galster is stunned. That's a torpedo strike, but there are no German Zerstörer
within torpedo range of the foundering Japanese ship.
The explanation is simple, but hard to believe. The torpedo is Japanese. One of the Japanese destroyers loosed her torpedoes against the closing German Zerstörer
, but failed to perceive that they would cross the Fuso's
The end result is appalling. The Fuso
has already taken some accurate fire from the Schlachtkreuzer
; the powerful Japanese torpedo hits her amidships and cracks her hull like a nut. She rolls over and sinks in under four minutes, taking more than half of her crew of a thousand down with her.
is now alone, against two of the most modern warships in the world.
As she tries to escape towards the east, the Schlachtkreuzer
move north, taking the armored cruiser Asama
under fire and scoring several hits. The Japanese ship fires back; her shells bounce harmlessly off the Hindenburg's
Almost three hours into the fight; Derfflinger's gunnery officers report that her magazines are half-empty.
But the Asama
, now under fire by Hertha
and her sisters, is a floating wreck, her engines dead and her turrets knocked out.
move to intercept the Yashima
-and then, a Japanese DD redeems its brethren with an insanely lucky successful long-range torpedo strike on the Derfflinger
. Water fountains well over the port broadside, as the warhead buries itself in the Schlachtkreuzer's
torpedo bulge. Alarms blare all over the ship; and damage control crews scramble to the stricken area.
The verdict is...surprisingly optimistic, and a testament to the successful implementation of underwater torpedo protection by the Germans. The torpedo hit just at the forward end of the bulge, flooding two underwater compartments, and the front turret of the ship falls silent, as the loaders are ordered to evacuate and flood the magazine, for safety reasons. But the actual flooding
is controlled. Watertight doors are holding and the bulkheads are strong. The damcon crews scream at the bridge to cut speed for emergency repairs; the Derfflinger
slows to her cruise speed of 16 knots. She is still
faster than the battered Yashima
But Galster will not risk a second lucky strike, or a capital ship loss. Derfflinger
is ordered to detach and sail away from the battle, until they have the flooding under full control; the Hindenburg
, on the other hand, takes up pursuit alone, cruising past the drifting hulks of the battered convoy.
The Germans are well-acquainted with the necessary damcon procedures by now. Ten minutes after the torpedo strike, the flooding on Derfflinger
is pretty much dealt with.
And, shortly after, the Yashima's
bow slips quietly, almost anticlimactically, under the waves, after a savage pounding at the hands of Hindenburg
. Dusk is falling, after a four-hour battle; Galster signals his forces to retreat. He is too canny to risk a nighttime pursuit of the Japanese light forces.
The German forces sail into their harbors in Northern Korea, tired yet satisfied. This is a great victory. The Japanese now have no battle-fleet worth the name (their first dreadnought is more than a year away from completion). They have lost their two pre-dreads and the Asama
-class cruiser Tokiwa
, as well as the entirety of the resupply convoy; in return, they've scratched the paint on Hindenburg
and three Zerstörer
, and dealt some damage to Derfflinger
that is easily repairable.Hindenburg
is clearly MVP, with over six hundred
rounds fired and more than thirty
confirmed hits on target; Derfflinger
follows suit with over five hundred shots fired and twenty-odd hits. The old cruisers have emerged entirely unscathed from the fight, but only Vineta
has made any meaningful contribution, with eleven hits scored. The Japanese performed abysmally from a gunner's perspective, with only four heavy hits received by the German ships. In total
. Over four hours of combat.
The Battle of Southern Korea is a great victory and the Wittelsbachs
have survived their baptism of fire with flying colours! The Admiralität
celebrates, when the news reach Germany.
It is no surprise when the Japanese sue for peace. They are starving and their fleet -their lifeblood- is gone, with the exception of a few raiding cruisers and a couple of old, turn-of-the-century heavy cruisers.
surprising is that, even after a month of negotiations, they still reject Germany's terms.