Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Battle of Jasper Roads: Part 1.

Before beginning this narrative, permit me to acknowledge two new ... members? followers? ... of this blogspot: Chris Johnson and Foss1066.  Some time ago, Springinsfield and Williamthenotsoyounganymore (Dig the cartoons, man!) joined also.  I appreciate your attention and your company.

In the many and interminable wars between the rival states of Azuria and Ruberia, one or the other has had occasion to call upon allies to aid them in adversity.  The Azurophile Czar of the eastern Empire of Porphyria was generally ready to answer the call of the Republic; whilst the Azurophobic Kaiser of Grauheim was as apt to join forces with his cousin, the king of Ruberia.
Azurian North Sea Battle Fleet; Admiral Georges Gantheaume
commanding in Valiant.

The war of 1877 was one such.  In the few relatively peaceful years preceding, all the navies had been buildin up their naval resources and technologies, but were prudentially keen before spending too much of their nations' revenues, to test their 'hearts of iron' in battle.  Curiously enough, all four of the great powers had settled upon developments along the lines of the Monitor gunboats, but engineered to the scale of lines-of-battle ships rather than inshore vessels.  Their designs proved to be remarkably similar.  That one might have expected this did not stop agitators in certain quarters fling about accusations of espionage, treason and plot.
Ruberian Battle Fleet: Sir Jno. Jellibene,
Admiral of the White, commanding.

When the 1876 winter talks between the plenipotentiaries of Ruberia and Azuria inevitably broke down, both sides hastily sped up their naval programmes.  No one knew for sure the cause of the cessation of dialogue.  The Ambassador of Azuria was said to have tugged the beard of the Ruberian Envoy, whereat the latter had tweaked the ends of Ambassador's generous moustaches.  What led to that witty exchange no one was willing recall exactly.  For their part, neither Kaiser nor Czar were willing to try cases, but almost fell over themselves offering their respective navies in support of their preferred ally.
The Porphyrian Fleet.  Vice-Admiral S.S. Skratchyurich's flag
flies over the Tsarina Ekaterina.
It transpired, however, that neither's navy was in quite a fit state to enter hostilities, for all the usual reasons that attend an overhasty commitment to war.  So the Azurian fleet stood to at their anchorages, whilst the Ruberian waited at theirs.  Galled into action but the apparently interminable wait, the Azurian Government authorised Admiral Gantheaume to take a small squadron and bombard eastern Ruberian cities.  The hope was that such an affront would goad the Ruberian navy to respond, and thus bring on a general sea battle.
The Grauheim High Seas Fleet.  Vice-Admiral Jochen von der Lust
carries his flag in SMS Derffinger.

Quite why the good Admiral was chosen to lead this task was as much a mystery to him as it was to everyone else.  Of his great-grandfather, also an Admiral, some wag epitaphographer had penned this rhyme:
     'Here lies the body of Admiral Gantheaume
      Who sailed his fleet from Brest to Bartheaume;
      Then, aided by a wind from the west,
      Sailed his fleet from Bartheaume to Brest.'  (not original)
It seems the great-grandson bore the stamp of his forebear: an honest toiler, but no fire-eater.

Nevertheless, the bombardments of Great Barmouth
and Tarborough went ahead, silencing the shore batteries (a worthwhile military outcome), but raising a loud outcry from the cities' burghers.  To assuage the legitimate fears of eastern city and sea port dwellers, the Royal Navy detailed half its Northern Sea Fleet to Rosyth, much closer to the endangered cities than it usual anchorage at Scarper Flora.  Other than that, the only further precaution from the Navy was to increase the numbers and vigilance of its wireless intercept corps along the border with Azuria.

For a month, six weeks, eight, Admiral Gantheaume waited.  So did the Republican Government, but with much less patience.  Rounding upon the harried Admiral by telephone, the Minister of Marine, himself having just emerged from a lively interview with M. President, ordered him, on pain of instant dismissal and court martial, once more to undertake a 'special mission' to one of the Ruberian sea ports.

The Admiral chose Highestoft: the nearest target, whose small shore battery made the thing just barely worthwhile.  An objective further north he dared not risk; nearer his home ports there were none to be had.  Knowing the risk that would be run, he chose his Third Division vessels Ixolite and Xaviera for the task.  Shifting his flag to Ixolite, he would lead the expedition himself.   At about 1600 hrs, Tuesday 13 March 1877, the two Azurian warships quietly slipped out of the harbour of Ville-Eglise and turned north.  Little did they or their Admiral know that an overlooked, but apparently minor, detail  had alerted the Admiralty at Loncester that something was afoot.  Even before Gantheaume's little squadron had raised steam, Rear-Admiral of the Blue, Sir Desmond Doughty was at sea, with three battleships eager to try conclusions with the upstart Republican Navy...

As you will have noticed in the pictures, I have placed all the vessels on stands made of a thin type of polystyrene (or similar) packing material.  Rather than sit them on top, I carved out depressions for the ships to 'sink' into, which gives the effect (I think) of floating.  The stands still look like stands, of course, that can't be helped.  Otherwise, I won't trouble to paint the ships, but may give them identifying markers, possibly flags for flag officers' vessels.


  1. great little story, but those coast lines look awfully familiar... anyway lets see how this pans out. wireless??? in the 1870's? really I know its not a major detail but still I am interested.

    1. Oops - a little anachronism there. Very careless of me. I should have said watchers of the semaphore - still in action between Lutetia and the Naval Bases of Venuseille, Brest and Ville-Eglise (Dunkirk) despite the invention of the telegraph years before (by which I mean, if the semaphore is an anachronism by 1877, it seems to me a more plausible one).

      But it does create a little difficulty further along the story. H'mmm...

      The coastline is certainly easily recognisable as it stands, but there is a major difference further south...

    2. Well spotted Gowan! But this need not be a major problem for Ion's story - set amongst his colourful imaginations.

      Early experiments with various electrical phenomena in the l860s and 1870s almost lead to the radio being invented in the time frame you need it for your story. The precursor technologies and materials existed in the 1870s, so why not let it happen a little earlier for the sake of your story?

      Keep up the good work! Your stories are some of the best flavour text out there!

      Kind Regards,

    3. Brian, you are very kind. But either way, the wireless thing should have crossed the mind of someone who took the trouble to to check that 13th March 1877 was indeed a Tuesday (actually the Tuesday came first, and I wanted somewhere near the 17th). Since Gowan's note, I was about to set up a Telecommunications Intelligence Gathering, Evaluation and Response (TIGER) Service - wiretapping in other words (actually the acronym occurred to me as I was typing this). Azuria (Troisieme Bureau)and everyone else have their equivalents, of course...

  2. Maybe it's slightly VSF? I'd go for holographic projectors or some kind of thought projecting device for communications.Of course a malfunction would turn the user into a vegetable or some kind of paranoid.

    1. How do we know that hasn't happened already?

    2. I ask because you have expressed a notion that I have long suspected. After all, just because I am paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me. And look how many and varied the people, even non-paranoid ones, who have been 'got' in recent years. I dunno...

      But I see your point, and it's a thought. But I shall have to blame my 'sources' for the misinformation. That will be made clear (I hope) next time.

  3. The bases look surprisingly good. The Voronezh looks like she's pulling a hard a port to regain her station though!

    Signal lamps is another possibility for communication. Early, but nit as early as the first prototypes. They range to the horizon, say 20 miles depending on the height of the observer and occasionally over it in the right conditions.


    1. I think Voronezh took a heavy sea that laid her over on her beam ends. The ships aren't actually glued in. I haven't made up my mind about that...

  4. Hi,

    I'm very glad to have found your blog! I was especially taken by your naval rules, not the least because I had a bunch of the plastic ships with nothing much to do with them. I mounted them on stands, and gave them a simple paint job: one side began medium gray, then washed dark gray, then dry-brushed light gray. The other side began light gray, washed medium gray, then dry-brushed white. The ships actually have fairly nice detail that popped out when dry-brushed. The whole process took me about an hour. I'm trying out a mild variation in the rules: out to 20cm a hit is scored on 5,6. It may not be worth the trouble, though. We'll see.

    Best regards,


    1. Hi Chris! One thing about beginning with something really basic is that you can add refinements. The upcoming action at Dodger Bank (posted next day or so) uses a '4-hit' scheme, which will make the action a little more protracted...

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Great storyline going on here Ion, Its like a fun school lesson!

    I like the way you have based the ships, good move I think.

    1. I'm glad the school lesson is fun, Paul. Can't be having with a dull one. :-)

      Pics are loaded for the sequel: just need to type in the ... erm ... text.

      Looking at the basing, I do feel that it reasonably successful, even at this small scale. I have some larger vessels (different periods) that might receive a similar treatment.