"This is an outrage! The blood and glory of our brave men is not something to cast aside and recycle for a cheap publicity stunt! And the names of the fallen and of our veterans, men and ships alike, are not toys to play with for one's entertainment!"
-Grossadmiral v. Galster, apocryphal quote; said to have been uttered in rage after the von Papen Hertha plan was made known to him.
Aftermath of the battle in the North Sea: the French surface fleet has been utterly mauled
. They only have a single 37k Dreadnought to face the two Bismarcks
which, together, measure 98k tons(!). They are also left with only five battlecruisers (with three more 40k-ton hulls building) to the Germans' eleven
. They have no
answer whatsoever to the Germans' heavy cruiser force: their light cruisers are smaller than even the German early-20th-century analogues; and the German Zerstörer
outmass and outgun the French contre-torpilleurs
hull-for-hull by a considerable margin.
Hindenburg and Galster know very well
that the amazing results of Heligoland were exactly that: unbelievable
. Yes, the Vaterland
has a good chance of dealing with the French relatively quickly after that
disaster, but fate is a fickle mistress. Also, there is no love lost between the military leaders and Von Papen, especially since the Reichskanzler
is eager to capitalise politically on the Navy's victories, interpreting them as validation of his warmongering policies.
Galster very nearly
loses his temper publicly when a memo reaches the Admiralität
from the Reichskanzler's
office. The funds have been set apart for the construction of a new heavy cruiser of the Hansa
class - but the Kanzler
insists it should be named Hertha
Testimonies by Galster's co-workers mention that the Grossadmiral
received the news like a physical blow. What von Papen demanded would entail the formal decommissioning of the old Hertha
, so that her name would become available; it was, he thought, an utter usurpation of the old cruiser's identity, simply for propaganda purposes. Many of the other high-ranking officers agreed. Scheer, for one, who had served as Hertha's
commanding officer during the Italian war, was dramatically opposed to von Papen's proposal.
And there was more than the ideological considerations in play here. Von Papen wanted a ship to start building now
, based on an already existing design. Remember, however, that the Hansas
particularly effective designs, with almost 500 tons of wasted, unoptimised space and a top speed of 31 knots, compared to the coal-fired, 32-knot Prinz Heinrichs
. This was a bad investment
It took Tirpitz's intervention, and a direct order from the Kaiser, to get the project through. His Majesty himself met with Galster to discuss the matter: he is said to have been morose himself at what it would imply.
With the French fleet well and truly blockaded in their harbours, the German U-Boote
assume fleet support duties. They still manage to nab two blockade runners to the west of the Channel.
And then the French strike back.
3 August 1920: the French submarine Circé
is attempting to sneak past the German patrols. She runs across Wettin
, returning home from a North Sea patrol, and snapshots three torpedoes. Two strike the German superdread on her starboard bow, cracking four bulkheads and killing sixty sailors. The Wettin
is never in danger of sinking and her Zerstörer
escorts drive the Circé
away, but the return to Wilhelmshaven does a number on the transverse bulkheads of the ship and the mangled bow. Yardhands scream obscenities and descend upon the ship like a swarm of locusts; the most optimistic estimates put her back in action in just under half a year.
This is closely followed by the loss of the Makrele
, one of the Piepers
, with all hands, near the eastern exit of the Channel.
Her sisters draw some French blood in return, but still, the losses sting
. For the first time in, well...ever
, the Germans are on the receiving end of a competently-led and competently-pursued submarine warfare campaign.
nasty surprise awaits the Germans on the 21st of August.
Two ancient German coastal submarines (U-1, yes, the first German submarine ever built
and the U-12), both modernised training vessels now, are sailing along the Dutch coastline, when they make out dark shapes towards the north. Fregattenkapitän
Ulrich Baumann of the U-1 orders an immediate crash dive and tracks the course of the presumed hostiles, his trainee crew and officers scared out of their wits. Modernised or not, if these are French and if a destroyer sniffs the submarines out...
They are French, Baumann decides, judging by the dark silhouettes. A raiding force, attemtping to hit-and-run in the Bight. Cold sweat runs down his spine.
But the sailors know their duty. Baumann extends his small radio aerial; and sends a brief, encoded warning message on the emergency bands. If the French are paying attention - if a single
destroyer in that raiding force has an alert radioman monitoring German frequencies...
The French sail past, shrouded in darkness. No challenge is given.
Shortly after they sail out of view, the terrified Germans turn their old boat around - and make best speed for the safe, shallow waters of the Dutch coast.
Back in Helgoland, the alarm has roused all fleet units currently on station. Helgoland Command is tearing out their hairs; they are trying to contact the Admiralität for orders, but comms are down because of technical difficulties - it will take at least an hour to restore them, an hour that Vize-
Admiral Leberecht Maass, the CO of the Helgoland Naval Base does not thing he has.
Helgoland is currently lacking any active modern Schlachtkreuzer
for her defense and the Bismarck
is patroling. All that Maass has available are the three old Schlachtkreuzer Von der Tann, Goeben
; the heavy cruisers Prinz Heinrich, Prinz Adalbert
; and a handful of old Zerstörer
. He does not know where the enemy is, nor what their force composition is. And he cannot believe
how the French have managed to slip an operation like that past the German Intelligence and codebreakers.
If there is a modern battlecruiser out there (or, heaven forbid, more
than one), sending the lightly armored cruisers and the old Schlachtkreuzer
against her in the dark could be suicide. But he has no other option. If he does not challenge the French, they might slip by and strike at Helgoland or even Wilhelmshaven; this would be a nightmarish repeat of the Thames Estuary raid, only with the roles reversed. He needs to find and stop them in the Bight - sacrifice his ships if he has to, to mission-kill or at least delay the enemy, until the heavy Schlachtkreuzer
can respond from the North Sea.
And so he sends out what forces he has, in two task groups. One comprises the three old Schlachtkreuzer
, with Konteradmiral
Behncke in command. The other is led by promising Kapitän zur See
Karl von Müller, who has left his darling Frauenlob
for a posting with the new heqvy cruiser forces. His squadron is escorted by little Bremen
, her old boilers screaming under the stress, but her crew eager for battle.
Behncke decides to split up his forces, to cover a larger area. The Schlachtkreuzer
move north; the cruisers turn south, to skirt the Dutch coast.
It is a questionable decision, but it pays off, as V1
, scouting ahead of Goeben
makes contact with the enemy at 06:12. And, shortly after that, in the early light of dawn, the lookouts of Goeben
manage to identify the massive ship leading the enemy force. *DRY ****ING GULP*
That's 10 14-inch rifles, staring down the old German Schlachtkreuzer
thinks Behncke, this is going to suck
. His ships are so outclassed that it's not even funny.
But he is an Admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine
and he knows his duty. And he is in command of Goeben
, the glorious, aptly-nicknamed Berserkershiff
, with probably the best crew in the fleet under his command, and he is desperate, with his back against the wall. He cannot retreat - the Marseille
is faster and will utterly rip him apart at long range. But he has another option.SCHLACHTKREUZER ****ING RAN AN DEN FEIND![OOC Note: Take a look at the 'Crew Quality' score of the Goeben. "-1" means "Untrained, why the hell are you bringing this ship into battle?"; "0" means "Trained"; "1" means "Experienced". "2" is "Elite" - a status that ship crews can only achieve by participating in multiple actions AND never entering reserve status. Goeben has been in active service since her commissioning and has participated in every war since then. Her crew are the very best of the best, hardened veterans every one.]Bremen
is in sight, to the south; she turns to scout out the French force. Meanwhile, the German capitals turn to the north, unshadow their broadsides and open fire. Twenty-four old 11-inch rifles boom, before the French can get the range.
Goeben straddles the target with her very first salvo
at long range. Seydlitz
misses by a small margin, and her fire control crews rush to adjust the firing calculations. And Von der Tann
shoots straight and true, smashing an 11-inch shell into the Frenchman's superstructure.
Quickly followed by another
hit from Von der Tann
, and one from Seydlitz
, as she finds the range.
responds by charging down the German formation. Her guns boom, and shells straddle the Goeben
. Behncke is brave, but not suicidal: he knows what these heavy guns can do to his old ships. He turns away, keeping the French ship at mid- to long range for as long as possible, buying time for reinforcements to arrive.
He is proven right when, two minutes later, the Marseille
scores a hit on the Goeben's
forward port turret, penetrating the armor and killing the entirety of the gun crew. Goeben
loses a quarter of her active broadside, but she does not flinch.
In fact, she turns to the east and outright challenges the Marseille to a mid-range battle. The Frenchmen, foolishly, accept, instead of either pushing in (to score crippling, multiple-hit broadsides) or opening the range (to pound the German capitals from outside their range).
And they pay for it in blood. It does not matter
how good your guns are, Frenchie, if you are obliging enough to sit inside the range of twenty-two
Fourty minutes after first contact, Goeben
breaks the Frenchman's nose. One of her 11-inch shells buries itself in the deck of the Marseille
just in front of her "A" Turret; it doesn't penetrate, but the shell explosion is enough to jam the turret.
That's a third of the Frenchman's firepower out of commission.Seydlitz
, her FC directors now perfectly locked on target follows her sister's example with a devastating broadside. She scores four
hits (out of eight shots fired) on the Frenchman, whose fire now is surprisingly erratic. Perhaps a fire control position was knocked out?
Behncke cannot believe his eyes, but somehow -somehow-
he is winning
has been the focus of the French fire so far, and she has only received a total of two
And then, von Müller finally
arrives to reinforce and enters the fray from the south. The three heavy cruisers flank the Marseille
from her fore portside and open fire with their 9-inchers at around 8k yards.
At this range, the Frenchman's 9-inch belt and 9-inch turrets are butter
- and the cruisers have a total of thirty six
guns to bring to bear. As Prinz Adalbert
pumps two shells into the battlecruiser's bridge, Hansa
penetrates her aft turret and blows it off its bearings.
And then the cruisers fire again
, from an even closer range. Heinrich
scores a hit, followed by two more from the Hansa
...who, it turns out, is calmly and methodically knocking out the Marseille's
Von Müller signals the flagship: ENEMY NEUTRALISED. ENGAGING IN PURSUIT OF ENEMY LIGHT FORCES. RECOMMEND YOU FALL BACK AWAY FROM ENEMY TORPEDO SHIPS.
Behncke agrees, and turns his task force away. The French battlecruiser is harmless now: a de-fanged prey for the German Zerstörer
. And her escorts - the light cruisers and destroyers that are running away from the German heavies in terror...
Well. They're roadkill, really.G7, G9
are detached to sink the French hulk. A torpedo strikes her amidships at 08:03; she sinks slowly by the bows, giving the German ships plenty of time to pick up survivors. More than five hundred sailors are rescued, from her crew of eight hundred and fifty.
Meanwhile, von Müller is in pursuit of the enemy light forces, taking multiple DDs under fire. His slowest ship is the Hansa
, with a maximum speed of 31 knots. Hilariously...
...neither the French light
...nor the French destroyers can outrun him. But the French scatter
, to such an extent that Müller cannot follow them all
. He still runs down and annihilates four French destroyers before pulling back to Emden.
German ship losses: one coastal patrol skiff. Not even one of the Piepers
, mind you - just a nameless armed trawler that a French submarine happened to run across.
It's a massacre; and the Germans quickly find out why, from their prisoners. The Marseille
-class ship Rouen
had just been commissioned; and had been sent on this raid after considerable political pressure before her shakedown cruise was complete
The German sailors are horrified
when they find out. No bloody wonder
the Frenchmen couldn't score hits. They had never had the chance to train with their ship's guns
, before being sent off to war.
Seriously, France. What. The. ****.
This has gone far beyond a patriotic war. This is now a mission to save the Frenchmen from their leaders.