Thursday, November 12, 2020

First Blacklands War - The War at Sea

This picture taken fairly early in the action: 
Georgios Averof using its extra speed to try and 
'cross the T', and the Turcowaz fleet in the process of 
turning in succession into a course nor'west by north.


The land war going so well for the Turcowaz Armies, apart from the defeat much too close to the Imperial capital for complacency, the Imperial Admiralty bethought it not before time to break the Hellenic blockage of their main - almost their sole - access to the open sea.  To be sure, there were other sea ports to the east along the Anatolian littoral, but they had little naval protection and in any case had nothing more than small craft for local defence - hardly any military value whatever. To the west, that was where the major sea ports lay, and they for the moment, were inaccessible. What if Halepi Zeki Pasha's army were to be bailed up in Salonika?  Could they be evacuated by sea?  Not with the blockade in force.  Finally, there was the significant factor of Zeleniya, very interested in the reopening of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles as an International Seaway into the Mesogesean Sea.

Fleets on converging courses, the Hellenic 
nor'west by north; the Turcowaz, due west.

The return, however badly its damaged state, of the ironclad battleship TNS Mesudiye offered some hope that the blockade might be broken, even if temporarily. In its passage, Mesudiye had ensured the Hellenic coastal battleship, HNS Hydra would be out of action for at least as long as the Turcowaz ship - probably longer. Refurbishment work upon the sister ship TNS Muhtesem* due for completion about October 20th, orders went out for the breakout attempt to be made on the 25th, when, the meteorologists advised, the weather would be fair, with light breezes from the south west.

Side Note: The British built Mesudiye was to have a sister ship of the same design, but, when built, it was never delivered.  Instead it fetched up in the Royal Navy as HMS Superb.  In this world, however, the Ruberian ship builders, contractors and admiralty came through and made good on the deal.  The sister ship was named Muhtesem - Turkish for ... 'Superb'.  

For their part, the immediate Hellenic reaction was to place one of Hydra's sister ships,  HNS Psara, to maintain watch over the exit of the Dardanelles. The main body of the Blockade Fleet would remain at the island of Lemnos, close enough to support Psara in the event of a breakout.

Turcowaz breakout attempt.

As promised, the 25th October proved as fair and tranquil as could be wished of a late autumn morning. Weighing anchor just after midnight in the darkness of a moon two days new, the breakout squadron began a leisurely journey down the Dardanelles Straight, arriving at its mouth shortly after first light. As the morning brightened, just as the battle line turned onto a course due west towards the northern edge of Lemnos island,  the lookouts spied smoke far to the south:  HNS Psara, on patrol.  

For its part, Psara spotted the Turcowaz squadron as distant pale ghosts against the loom of the Gelibolu Peninsula.  At once that vessel turned its course to parallel the enemy.  Meanwhile, anticipating the breakout move - apparently Hellenic agents in Ionople had got the word out betimes - the main body of the blockading squadron had stood out from Lemnos Harbour  at about the time the Turcowaz fleet was exiting the Dardanelles. Discovering that the enemy was not attempting to break out to the south but instead to the west, the Hellenic fleet turned onto a northwest by north heading, hoping to intercept.  As the courses converged, Psara joined the squadron and took up its station at the rear of the battle line.  

Hellenic battle line.

The Hellenic Blockade Squadron, led by Rear Admiral Pavlos Poliomyelitis comprised:
  • Georgios Averof, Armoured Cruiser, 10,000 tons, 4 x 9.2-inch; 8 x 7.5-inch;  F/P=12 C/P=3
  • Lemnos, Modern Pre-Dreadnought Battleship, 13,000 tons, 4 x 12", 8 x 8"; F/P=20 C/P=5 
  • Psara, Coastal Battleship, 5,000 tons, 3 x 10.8"; 5 x 5.9"; F/P=12 C/P=3
  • Ierax, Destroyer/ Torpedo boat, 1000 tons, 4 x 4"; torpedoes; F/P=5 C/P=1
  • Panthir,  Destroyer/ Torpedo boat, 1000 tons, 4 x 4"; torpedoes; F/P=5 C/P=1
The main battle line comprised the three ships, in line astern on a northwest by north heading, with the destroyers forming a parallel line to port, somewhat protected from enemy gunfire.  Rear Admiral Poliomyelitis hoisted his flag aboard Lemnos.

Turcowaz battle line.

Converging upon the Hellenic line, the Turcowaz fleet came on undaunted, still on its course due west. The two most powerful warships led, the second of which, Hayreddin Barbarossa, carried the flag of Admiral Basmati Reis.  The breakout squadron comprised:
  • Turgut Reis, Older Pre-Dreadnought Battleship, 10,000 tons; 6 x 11", 8 x 4.1"; F/P=15 C/P=4
  • Hayreddin Barbarossa,  Older Pre-Dreadnought Battleship, 10,000 tons; 6 x 11", 8 x 4.1"; F/P=15 C/P=4
  • Muhtesem, Coastal Battleship, 9000 tons; 2 x 9", 12 x 5.9"; F/P=12 C/P=3
  • Hamidiye, Protected Cruiser, 4000 tons; 2 x 5.9", 8 x 4.7"; F/P=10 C/P=2
  • S165, S166, Destroyer/ Torpedo boats, 665 tons; 2 x 8.8cm, 2 x 37mm, torpedoes; F/P=5 C/P=1

    F/P=Flotation Points; C/P=Critical Point
As did the Hellenic fleet, the destroyers formed a separate, parallel, line starboard of the main four-vessel main battle line.  

Trying the range: Battleship Lemnos lets fly.

As the courses converged and the ranges closed, Lemnos, with its longer ranged 12-inch guns, opened fire on the leading Turcowaz vessel.  Continuing on through the ineffective fire, Turgut Reis led the battle line until well within range of its own main battery, turned onto a course parallel with the Hellenic, and let loose its first salvo against Georgios Averof.  

Near miss from HNS Lemnos - not yet in range 
of Turcowaz guns.
Admiral Basmati Reis having ordered a course change in succession bearing northwest by north, the lead Turcowaz ship, Turgut Reis, came in for the undivided attention of Georgios Averof and Lemnos, both.  Five damaging hits opened up holes and started fires aboard the Turcowaz battleship.  But Turgut Reis gave back with interest - three hits only upon the Hellenic armoured cruiser, but they with 11-inch shells - all three seriously damaging (3 sixes = 6 flotation points struck off).  

The following ships had not reached the turn when Turgut Reis fired off its first salvo.  Only Hayreddin Barbarossa had the range, and could reach with its broadside the Psara, and not the Lemnos battleship. One hit struck a blow upon Psara's upper deck, causing minor damage.    

Telling exchange of salvos begin the action.

Now, Georgios Averof had almost from the outset been ordered by Rear Admiral Poliomyelitis to use its speed to head reach upon the Turcowaz battle line, in the hope of crossing the 'T', whilst the rest of the squadron continued to engage the enemy from abeam. This plan reckoned without the accuracy of Turcowaz naval gunnery - another salvo such as already received might well see the end of Hellenia's pride and joy.
TNS Turgut Reis taking some stick at the beginning
of the change of course to parallel the Hellenic battle line.

HNS Psara in action.

As the Turcowaz battle line settled upon its new course, the action became formalised into ship-for-ship gunnery duels.  In this, Georgios Averoff found itself rather overmatched by the heavier and more numerous main battery of the Turcowaz pre-Dreadnought battleships. That 'Q' turret, of course! Perhaps if the heavy cruiser could have brought its secondary armament into range - far more powerful than the 4.1-inch secondaries carried by the Turcowaz battleships - maybe the fight would have been more equal.  As it transpired, she put two hits aboard Turgut Reis, but once more took far greater damage in return.  Ablaze from end to end, and with a pronounced list to starboard, Georgios Averof altered course to due west, and limped out of the battle. 
The Turcowaz battle line having almost completed 
its change of course.

The duel between the respective flagships went slightly - only slightly - in favour of the Hellenic vessel, with both sides receiving severely damaging hits. The Lemnos was the better able to withstand the punishment, however. Had this been a single ship duel, no doubt it would have gone hardly with the older battleship. Handicapped by its limited broadside Psara got the worst of the early exchanges with Muhtesem. It was clear that the Hydra class of warships did not favour the formal battle line. 
Georgios Averof at full speed, planning to cross 
the 'T' of the slower moving Turcowaz line.

At this point I shall interrupt the narrative with a side note on the ships' fighting capabilities, as interpreted by Bob Cordery's naval rule set for Pre-Dreadnought warfare. Instead of taking Bob's firing system for broadsides standardised by ship type; I made them the default for 4 guns (broadside) and 2 (fore and aft batteries) down to protected cruiser level. For destroyers and small craft I left them 'per spec'. Now, they fit very well 'as is' with vessels like Lemnos and Georgios Averof. But it seemed to me they didn't take into account the extra midships 11-inch gun turret on the Turcowaz (Turkish) pre-Dreadnoughts, nor the idiosyncratic gun arrangements upon Muhtesem/ Mesudiye, Hamidiye and Psara/Hydra. Hence the stats I published two or three postings ago.

Both sides scoring damaging hits.

In the case of the pre-Dreadnoughts, the extra two guns gave the Turcowaz battleships' 6 11-inch a firepower equal to or greater the 4 12-inch guns carried by Lemnos - once they got within range, of course!  The 12-inch still had a two hex range advantage!  

With Georgios Averof falling out of the battle line, the Rear Admiral ordered the destroyers to attack, with Psara also altering course to northeast by north to approach and engage more closely the Turcowaz battle line Lemnos would continue as the sole unit remaining in the nor' by nor'west battle line.  

As Georgios Averof staggers out of the fight,
Psara and the destroyers are signalled: 'Engage 
the enemy more closely'.

Admiral Basmati Reis was of like mind: it was high time the destroyer torpedo boats contributed to the combat.
Turcowaz destroyers go in.

Suddenly the sea was criss-crossed with converging wakes and gunfire.  Lemnos brought such a punishing fire down upon Turgut Reis that very shortly she was forced to fall out of the battle line just as Georgios Averof had been.  For its part, Turgut Reis still managed to start a couple of fires on the Hellenic flagship.  Possibly Hayreddin Barbarossa ought to have kept firing at Lemnos, but had instead switched its attention to Psara, upon which vessel it struck several heavy blows, whilst taking a couple of minor knocks in reply.  Muhtesem added a couple of hits to the damage Psara was accumulating at an alarming rate.  With no major target available, the protected cruiser, Hamidiye, concentrated all its firepower upon the approaching Ierax destroyer.  It was overkill.  In a welter of explosions Ierax vanished quickly beneath the waves.

The battle lines aflame!

The other Hellenic destroyer was scarcely luckier. Taking a hit from an enemy destroyer, and several from the powerful secondary armament of Muhtesem, Panthir was forced, without ever releasing its torpedoes, to limp off, still under way, but otherwise reduced to a wreck.  

Nor was the destroyer S165 able to complete an attack before taking hits from Lemnos, Psara and a near miss from Panthir.  Lucky to remain afloat, S165 made off , passing across the wake of S166 as that destroyer pressed on to release its torpedoes against Psara's stern.

A further aside, here.  In the above picture, the green and big white dice are the main gun salvos; the small white and coloured dice, the secondary armaments. It appears that before taking this picture I had removed the 'misses' from Lemnos's main guns, but all the remaining rolls are there.  Now, at this point so exciting was the action I simply forgot to take pictures for a short while.  Ierax was sunk, and Psara crippled, and about to try and break off the action.  So I had perforce to substitute the following diagram of the action.  

In lieu of pictures, a diagram.  The action was 
getting pretty lively hereabouts!

As Turgut Reis fell out of its station leading the battle line, the latter carried on their course, covering the withdrawal of the stricken battleship.  Hayreddin Barbarossa and Muhtesem exchanged further pleasantries with Lemnos, adding to the carnage, but without forcing any vessel to abandon the fight. Of the destroyers, only S166 remained in action.  As Psara turned away towards the northwest, she took a couple of damaging hits from Hamidiye, but the coup de grace was delivered by S166.  Firing a pattern of 3 torpedoes (my 'narrative interpretation' of Bob's rules concerning torpedo firing), the Turcowaz destroyer had only the Psara's stern at which to aim.  Two of the torpedoes missed, but the third struck home, wrecking the steering, opening up a gash into which the seawater poured unstoppably, and leaving the ironclad dead in the water, and sinking. 
Two telling hits from Hamidiye, and a torpedo 
strike from a Turcowaz destroyer sends 
Psara to the bottom of the sea.

That was the end of the action, pretty much.  Shorn of its supports, the Hellenic battleship could scarcely make head alone against what remained of the Turcowaz squadron.  Reluctantly, Rear Admiral Poliomyelitis called upon the retreat, following and protecting Georgios Averof and Panthir.  Both were crippled but at least afloat, making off to the west, and the safe anchorage of Lemnos Island.  For their part, the Turcowaz fleet, relieved perhaps at not having to fight Lemnos to a finish, also made off to the northeast, later on shifting course for the entrance to the Dardanelles.  The battle was over.

The battle over, the wreckage of  two Hellenic vessels
 burn as the fleets disappear over the horizon.

Of course the Turcowaz sailors were cock-a-hoop, as was the Ionople Press and the people of the capital.  The blockade was broken, and the Turcowaz Empire could appeal to International Opinion and Convention to insist that, if the Hellenic Navy wished to reimpose the blockade, the standard period of notice would be required.  The generally Turcophobic nations of Europeia found themselves unable to find any excuse to deny the claim; but that was a matter for diplomatic wrangling in obscure corridors of international discourses. The Hellenic Navy had taken a hard knock: a major unit sunk, and their pride and joy, Georgios Averof reduced to a flaming wreck, not to mention a destroyer lost and another that would take months to repair (Actually, considering the size of that armoured cruiser - close to 10,000 tons - perhaps 15 Flotation Points might better reflect its endurance).  It might be several weeks before a blockade could be reimposed - and the Turcowaz navy was better placed to break it again.  By comparison, the Turcowaz fleet had got off lightly...

For the time being, the protected cruiser, Hamidiye was being hastily provisioned for a commerce raiding cruise into the Mesogesean Sea...

An addendum to the Admiral's report and the Hayreddin Barbarossa ship's log has come to light concerning the outcome of the battle:

Battle log recovered from 
Hayreddin Barbarossa.

Much to my surprise, not having played out a fleet action using the Bob Cordery set (really only the stats were modified, and they only slightly), the Turcowaz fleet performed very well - far better than the Ottoman historically. It appears that in my world, the Turcowaz gun crews received as much instruction upon gunnery as they did upon gun drills. Georgios Averof received so much punishment so quickly, it was out of the action all too soon after it began, and lucky to get off still afloat. 

The whole action went very quickly; I doubt it took an hour. In fact, this action, together with the battle of Klyutch played earlier, was finished the same morning. Left as is, one could comfortably fight a fleet action with many more vessels than the eleven engaged in this one. Mind you, my game board is no great size for this kind of battle: I had to 'scroll' the action at least every other turn - not that that presented any real problem. From my perspective that would tend to limit the battles to not much more than what I have now available.

I have a feeling that the next time these squadrons are engaged in battle, I'll be introducing a little bit of extra detail, hit 'sixes' having some effect upon motive power, steering or gunnery, say - just to add a little 'colour' to the battle narratives.

For all that, there was plenty of excitement to be had, to the point that at its climax, I simply forgot to take pictures, whilst imagining I was still doing so!  

To be continued: what happens during the Fourth Week of the First Blacklands War.


  1. Hello there Archduke,

    What a fantastic battle! I really enjoyed reading this and the rule tweaks you applied worked very nicely. The narrative was excellent and I loved some of the names - Basmati Reis? I always used Kerim Keyk... Translating English names into Turkish is something I did with some WW1 destroyers the Turks had ordered from Great Britain but requisitioned. I gave them to the Turks anyway (along with the Agincourt) and just changed the names into Turkish.

    A great report, cracking looking models and a stirring narrative!

    Very well done that man!

    All the best,


    1. Thank you David -
      It was a cracking battle, that's for sure! I could have used real Admiral names from Turkey and Greece, as I have done with the Army commanders, but I rather liked the names I came up with, so there they are. I wish I had thought of Karim (or Kareem) Keyk, though! Kareem Tcheez, perhaps?
      Archduke Piccolo.

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    This was exactly the sort of naval battle I hoped people would use my rules to fight. Great models that are evocative of the period, and rule tweaks that make sense ... and which I would mercilessly copy if I was rewriting my books!

    It looks to me as if the Turcowaz are building up a momentum that will see them emerge from the war with much more credit than one would have expected ... and even if they do not manage an overwhelming victory, they will be able to enter any peace negotiations with a degree of confidence. Their opponents are not likely to be able to dictate terms ... which I think that at the outbreak of hostilities they might have thought was highly likely.

    I am looking forward to the next instalment in this very entertaining campaign.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      Things aren't looking too flash for the Allies, are they? Very much in a state of flux. I suspect that as most of the armies will have a variety of options available, events might well take an unexpected turn.

      If ever you do rewrite any of your books, feel free to include any of my tweaks if you think they're good enough.
      Archduke Piccolo.

  3. Great report Archduke - the Turcowaz are on a roll!

    1. Maudlin -
      One begins to wonder how the Ottomans actually lost the real war! But seriously, I never would have anticipated the run of successes they have had in this campaign so far. It is now hard to see how the Allies might come back.
      Archduke Piccolo

  4. Hi Archduke- I do like your scratch built Fleet Models - great work there- well done indeed. Regards. KEV. (Sydney-Australia).

    1. Hi Kev -
      I was very pleased with how they turned out, and , for a change, I actually enjoyed making these. Very tempted to make more - possibly for other navies.
      Archduke Piccolo.

  5. What a smashing narrative to your game Ion, plenty of action. Very enjoyable, easily the best read of the day.

    1. Cheers, Paul -
      Glad you enjoyed it! It was certainly a brisk and exciting action, especially when the destroyers joined in. I think the battle took less - a lot less - than an hour to play out, including pictures.
      Archduke Piccolo.

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