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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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El Pip

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Presumably the remnant of the Italian fleet has been flushed out and is about to receive a righteous hammering. Here's hoping anyway. :D
 

trekaddict

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Presumably the remnant of the Italian fleet has been flushed out and is about to receive a righteous hammering. Here's hoping anyway. :D

Well, the Mediterranean Fleet is standing by.....
 

Ciryandor

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trekaddict

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No, since there will be lots of Implacables out there. More info here. Basically there is no need for the CVA 01 Programme.
 

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Chapter 179

6th November 1941

British Occupied Lybia


The guard duty down here was outright boring. Ever since the Army had moved to Italy where at this time British and Allied units were entering the outskirts of Taranto, all that happened at this supply depot was the occasional lorry convoy taking on some crates and moving out again, and therefore he was bored to tears. The only thing that happened regularly was the lorry that brought them supplies and the change of watch, and come to think of it, the lorry was a few minutes late. This was nothing new though, as the roads were always in heavy use and the lorries that remained for such rear area units as this one weren't the best of the lot, those had gone with the Army to Italy. The guard shrugged and turned around on his heels to begin the next leg of his route around the fenced in area. Each tour took him about a quarter hour, so large was this supply dump, but when he heard a faint rumble in the distance he paused. It was already dark, and with luck this was the lorry that brought the by-daily change of the watch. During peacetime he would have been able to see the headlights of the lorry for miles and miles, but with the blackout in place this was not to be. He decided not to walk around the camp and instead waited for the lorry. When it came closer he could see that it was not only the Lorry, but also a brand new Landy that drove ahead of the lorry. The two vehicles came closer and closer and in the end stopped in front of the small hut where the other two guards were sitting. They emerged too as the occupants of the vehicles dismounted, and the guards snapped to attention when they saw that one of the men was wearing the rank insignia of a full Colonel. The guards snapped to attention, and the Colonel had them stand at attention. They had no way to wonder about that, because before they could act, the other men from the lorry raised their Stens and moved them down where they were, for they were not British soldiers but rather German Paratroopers. Oberst Steiner was still annoyed that his mission had been changed at the last moment, but that was not so much the fault of the planners in Berlin and more that of the British attacking before Steiner's mission to find out when and where they would could start. So instead it was one of sabotage. The group of twenty-three men was to move across Northen Africa for as long as possible, destroy whatever critical infrastructure they encountered before they would go to a pre-arranged contact with a U-Boat. Steiner was less than optimistic about his chances to get out of Africa again, but then again if his friend at Rommel's Staff in Italy was correct, the troops there needed all the help they could get since Berlin and Moscow were still reluctant to send more forces.


For example this particular supply dump was one of the many that dispersed the supplies before they were shipped to Italy in separate convoys for fear of the Italians managing to slip their fleet past the blockade and intercepting the one large convoy. Destroying even one of them would surely disrupt the British planes even a bit, and to that effect Steiner and his men entered the enclosure and began to place charges within and between the crates of .303 ammunition, petrol and diesel drums and the almost empty rows of earth and sand bunkers in which Artillery munitions were stored. The Germans were inside the fence for no more than thirty minutes, and as a last act Steiner opened several petrol drums and poured them onto the ground. The Germans then boarded the stolen vehicles again and drove off to put as much ground between them and the supply dump before everything exploded. Twenty minutes after leaving a thundering explosion lit the night, followed by many secondary explosions and a massive conflagration that engulfed everything. The fire threw the British forces and installations into total chaos, as the fire had eaten a considerable amount of fuel and munitions, even though in the beginning no one suspected sabotage. The initial idea was that one of the third-line troops had simply managed to set the whole thing in the way of a cigarette by accident. No one noticed the Landy and the Lorry that didn't belong and that didn't drive anywhere for the entire day. Steiner and his group hid in the desert in a ditch about a mile or two from the road, and Steiner was amused to watch the British racing by like hens that had their eggs stolen. One of his men lay beside him on the dune and asked: “So, Herr Oberst, what next?” “Next, my dear Otto, is that we drive towards the meeting with the U-Boat, and on the way we blow up what we can.” “Are you sure that's wise, Oberst?” Steiner paused. Normally German NCOs were not so frank with their Officers, but Steiner and his men were with the Brandenburger Division since it's inception, and they had gone through Poland, Belgium France and Yugoslavia together and that had formed them into a tight group. “Wise it isn't but it is what is ordered, and we are both soldiers Otto, and that is what we shall do.” Steiner looked up and down the road again as they waited for the day to end. Once it was dark again, they set off.


Early 2nd November 1941

The Mediterranean Sea was unusually stormy for this time of the year despite the wind. When the British Carriers turned into the wind, Admiral Somerville had a battleplan in mind that he had been perfecting for months. The Carrier aircraft would strike at the Italian fleet, decimate it, tire out the gunners and use up their Ammunition and sink as many ships as possible, leaving the rest for the Battelships to mop up. The fifty-six Swordfishes that had been in airworthy condition on that day were out to hunt using standard tactics and formation of three or four plane groups. RDF sets aboard several ships had made sure that the fleet knew where the enemy was, but having the attack force actually find them in this weather would be difficult for at that time Britain had not yet perfected an Airborne RDF set. As a result of this a Sunderland flying from Malta had been ordered to shadow the Italian Fleet if possible, but so far had only found the tail end of the fleet, several cruisers that were known to be among the last to flee the harbour before the squaddies arrived. Somerville was less than pleased, because this meant that the fleet was farther out than expected, and that in turn meant that the Carrier aircraft would probably not the first to find the scouting Squadrons of the enemy fleet as he had hoped.

Less than an hour later he found his fears to be true, as the 1st Battlegroup consisting of HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Warspite, HMS Valiant and their escorting Destroyers and cruisers sighted a small Italian Scouting Squadron. When he heard the position report he knew how the Italians could be farther out already than he had expected, and he had to give it to the Italian Fleet Commander. He was not stupid, because he had his Battleships hug the coast, even though he would probably be within range of land-based British Artillery. At the same time the British were forced to keep their distance in order to cover all the possible routes the Italian Fleet could take, and that had probably been the whole point, hoping to slip away before the British realized where he was going. It would have worked had Somerville not split up his fleet to allow the Battleships to operate independently, for the Italians had no idea about modern-ish Carrier tactics as exercised by the Royal Navy at that time. The main airstrike adjusted course accordingly, giving the 1st time to do their work and get out of the area. However their course change took them directly at the main Battleline since the Italian Fleet was not as strung out as Somerville had expected. The cruisers sighted by the Sunderland were not part of the last squadron, they were the last squadron. They were simply lagging behind since they also were the oldest and slowest Italian Cruisers in the Regia Marina. Meanwhile up front HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sisters opened fire on targets that turned out to be a host of Destroyers, supported by a singular light Cruiser. The British Battleships handily outranged the Italians that had to endure plunging gunfire for the better part of half an hour before they could get into range themselves, and by the time they did, five Destroyers had already been sunk by accurate long-range gunnery and the Light Cruiser, later identified as the Muzzio Attendolo, was damaged, having lost a forward turret.

For this type of situation Italian tactics called for a massed torpedo strike to break up the enemy formation, and the Italians still had more than a dozen Destroyers, and they all launched at medium distance. Thanks to a eagle eyed observer aboard Valiant the tracks of the fish were spotted early, giving the British Battleforce time to evade. However HMS Valiant was the closest to the Italian formation and could not evade them all. One hit her square amidships. The British had increased torpedo protection for their Battleships in the inter-war period, and that was what saved Valiant. The ship shuddered as if it were a human being suddenly entering a cold room, but she continued on her course. The other British ships had managed to comb the wave and continued to fire, even though all gunnery solutions had been thrown to hell. Valiant too joined the bombardment of the Italian ships that were resuming their old course. Coincidentally her shells were the first to hit again, as her shells broke the Italian Light Cruiser neatly in half.


Meanwhile Further down the line between them and Taranto a second, smaller hunting group centred around Barham, Malaya and the heavy Cruiser Frobisher fought a similar action. Here too the Italian Destroyers let themselves be massacred to disrupt the British line and to open a way for the Capital ships to slip through, and here too a Light Cruiser, the Luigi Cadorna was lost along side the Destroyers, becoming a victim to a lucky shot from Frobisher that ripped open her Engineering spaces and caused her to turn turtle and sink within less than ten minutes. Here too the formation was disrupted, and here three all three Capital ships took a hit, with four British Destroyers being sunk. This forced Somerville to shred his own plan and reorganize his force, but just as he did so, the Carrier Strike hit the tail end of the Italian Fleet that had managed to break through the British Battleline. He had contemplated to send Valiant back towards Alexandria for repairs, but he needed every ship he could get for the inevitable chase around Sicily and towards the Naval Base at Naples or wherever they were going. It amazed Somerville that the Italians had not headed east instead, but this was none of his concern. His concern was to follow them, to hound them, to destroy as much of their strength as he could.

While all that had been going on, just after Queen Elizabeth and her group had opened fire, a part of the airstrike stumbled over the tail end of the Italian main body. The Swordfishes were near the end of their range and therefore the attack had to be pressed home fast, and in one single pass or else the Strinbags would not make it back to their motherships. The sailors aboard the Italian ships had no idea what was coming, the Swordfishes had already dropped to their attack altitude and due to the lack of RDF systems aboard the Italian ships no early warning had been possible. When they did see the British warplanes, it was too late. Italian Anti-aircraft fire began to fill the sky with lead as the Battleships tried to evade the incoming torpedoes. They were less than successful. Out of the thirteen fish, all dropped by planes from HMS Furious, nine ran straight and true. Four hit the Battleship Gulio Cesare, one it the Conte di Cavour, and one the Heavy Cruiser Bolzano. The rest missed. The British disappeared again, running low on fuel after the long chase they had given the Italians, but they had done well. For only three planes lost, they had damaged three ships, leaving one of them, the Gulio Cesare in sinking condition. The stricken Battleship was heavily listing as her crew scrambled over the side, and before she could be scuttled by torpedoes, she went under the waves, never to return.


[Notes: Normally I don't like writing narrative chapters with more than one location, but here it had to be done since the thing with Steiner is too short to warrant it's own chapter but will be important later on. Never mind that this is a test run for this new format for Naval Battles, since there are maybe one or two battles in the future that require the detailed style. Resultion of this sometime next week.]
 

Kurt_Steiner

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That chap, Steiner.... he looks quite promising, indeed...:p I hope nobody sends him to do something nasty in England...

BTW, someone should tell the Reggia Marina to keep quiet. Well, if she has anything afloat after this last "party".:D
 

ColossusCrusher

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Does his buddy Otto happen to have a fencing scar? :D
 

El Pip

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I did like the start of the update, partly for Steiner obviously but also because I do like an active enemy. Same reason I liked the Canada plot as well I suppose.

I must confess I'm not too sure on the new naval update style. Perhaps it will grow on me or perhaps the previous outstanding Hood update has raised the bar too high for anything to follow. :D
 

Ciryandor

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No, since there will be lots of Implacables out there. More info here. Basically there is no need for the CVA 01 Programme.

So the replacement is an analogue to the Enterprise and Nimitz classes?:cool:
 

trekaddict

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Kurt_Steiner Indeed he is, it's not the last time we will hear from him. :D As for the RM, this isn't over just yet.


ColossusCrusher No, that particular Otto died in France before the war and will remain a non-entity.

El Pip Then you will like what I have in mind for that, if it does work out. As for the naval update, I simply don't have the time these days to write them that detailed, at least not for a second tier Navy.

Ciryandor Indeed.
 

trekaddict

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So, we all know what is up next, the Battle against the remnants of the Italian Fleet. However, what do you want to see after that update, land combat involving The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) or more commando-raid related stuff?
 

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depends if ian drops from a plane with a division of paratroopers to save the day. wichever one has that im all for it
 

Le Jones

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Fun thought Commando stuff is I really prefer the land combat option involving the Black Watch.
 

Ciryandor

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I'd like to see more combined arms stuff.
 

Doge Robert

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You are a cruel and evil man to not give me more agent-stuff to entertain myself with Trekkie... Wait.. commandos....German Commandos???!!!

You are forgiven..

:D
 

trekaddict

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Chapter 180



Four days later, somewhere north of Sicily


The Commander of the group of Italian ships that had fled from the fallen base at Taranto was looking at the reports he had received. He knew that he should consider himself lucky that he had lost only nine more ships during air attacks that the British had carried out during the last day in order to slow his formation down and erode the numbers. And they had done so alright, even though he had lost only several smaller ships, a Light Cruiser and several Destroyers. The British had attacked and attacked and attacked, and even those ships that were not sunk were for the most part damaged. During the days the Fleet had taken to creep around Sicily and had run the gauntlet between Air Forces from two sides, Carrier Aircraft and prowling submarines British Carrier Aircraft had attacked eleven more times, even though for the most part they had attacked the minor diversion Squadrons that he had sent out. He had been confident about making it to Naples, but the course of the war on the land had made a hash of that plan. Now the tattered Squadron was once again on the move, this time north. He knew that sooner or later, most likely sooner, Admiral Somerville would notice that he had turned north, and he doubted his own ability to break through the British lines again. All of his Battleships and most of his Heavy Cruisers had taken at least one Torpedo Hit. The Conte di Cavour had taken on water and was now lower in the water, with her speed limited to ten knots, and he knew that she would most likely not escape if the British were coming at them again, as he knew they would. He thought of his daughters, and he knew that his chances of seeing them again in this live were small at best, and....


Then suddenly the sirens of the ship began to roar. “REPORT!” he yelled. Before anyone could answer, the guns of the ship replied for him. The Anti-Aircraft suite of the ship began to fire, and he knew what was coming. Sure enough, he could see the British Bi-planes that had been so ubiquitous during the last week, and they were carrying the ( almost ) last torpedoes in the armouries of the British Aircraft Carriers, even though he did not know that. What he noted was that they were fewer in number than usual, a result of Anti-Aircraft fire and normal attrition that was usual for aircraft in a combat environment. What had not changed was that they were still coming in several smaller groups, in the intention of hitting his formation from two sides at once, forcing his ships to divide their fire. He knew that there was no sense of giving any more orders. In the brutal and darwinistic place that was combat, his captains had learned fast to start evasive manoeuvres as soon as the planes appeared. Those that hadn't died. He watched as the planes remorselessly closed in, and he knew that his remaining Battleships were prime targets as they were the biggest ships afloat. The fleet was roughly on a north-easterly course, and the British adjusted their course, even as the Italian formation dispersed. His ships had orders to try and make their way north independently, for one ship was more likely to escape the attention of the British Navy than a huge group of warships. The biplanes entered the envelope in which his anti-aircraft had any reasonable chance to engage them and dropped both speed and height impossibly low. They were almost touching the wavetops, and as the ship turned as violently as her captain dared, he could see the dark shapes of the torpedoes dropping from their bellies, and before they had covered half the distance and shortly after the planes roared overhead, he knew that they were not going to miss and he steeled himself. Two of the fish slammed into the ship, making it shudder, and when the water and the smoke cleared, he could see that his ship was gravely wounded. One of the fish had hit near an earlier hit and had amplified the older damage, and the rest had made cracks big enough and increased the flooding. The ship groaned like a wounded animal when inside steel beams were buckling under a strain they were never meant for. The Admiral realized that his ship was likely doomed and decided to shift his flag.

As he was on the only remaining functional boat that was fitting for a fleet commander, he saw that the Conte di Cavour was slowing even more, but kept a steady course in spite of her list. The biggest Capital ship nearby was the Heavy Cruiser Pola that had approached to render assistance. He went aboard the ship.

However the perils of the Italians were far from over. Soon enough the Battleships that had struggled to reach the Battlearea were approaching fast. Somerville had decided to expend precious torpedoes and aircraft to slow the Italians down and to try and prevent them from slipping away before the 'Queens' had taken up a position from which they could intercept them. At the same time the cohesion of the Italian Fleet had completely dissolved, even though that made it possible for the Italians to slip a two Light Cruisers and several Destroyers past the British before those were in position. Now however it began to hurt the Italians, for there was no way to co-ordinate what larger Fleet units remained. Somerville had set up his forces in two groups, a Squadron set his Battleships and half of his Destroyers to the south, with his Carriers to the west and his Cruisers to the north. This created a box of roughly sixty to seventy miles. It was also highly risky. To the west was Sardinia, to the east was mainland Italy, and what was to stop the Italians from going west and pouncing the Carriers, or for that matter, what was to happen if they were going north and smashed against the cruiser line before Somerville ( having planted his flag on Warspite ) and the Battleships arrived? These were all concerns brought up when Somerville had discussed the plan with his Chief of Staff in the wardroom aboard Warspite as she was just passing Marsalla. The Admiral had rebutted them with three arguments, for one the French Air Force was finally pulling it's weight ( thanks to deliveries of second-line British Aircraft ) and had effectively neutralized Sardinia, secondly the Italians were in no shape for a Fleet Action of any size and early warning for the Carriers would be provided by the scouting Swordfishes, and thirdly he was confident that Vice Admiral Sir Tom Phillips would be able to hold until the Battleships that would steam at full speed would catch up.

As a result of this, the Italian Admiral had no idea that the real threat came neither from the Carriers nor was it lying ahead of him, but was rather sneaking up from behind. He acted on the information he had and simply boarded the Cruiser to have a ride. The Italians sped north north as fast as the damaged Cruiser could go and and since they lacked RDF equipment, had no idea that several British Battleships were hiding behind the horizon. What he also did not see that one last Carrier Airstrike was on it's way towards his position. The planes hoped to catch the damaged Battleship, but the reduction in speed by said ship lead to them instead stumbling across the Heavy Cruiser which was trying to make it's way north and towards relative safety. The noose around the neck of what remained of the Italian Fleet was tightening. The Admiral walked the deck of the bridge of the cruiser and refused being taken below for medical treatment to the scratch on his forehead. He decided to drink a cup of... “AIR ATTACK!” He ran outside and sure enough there were three more aircraft in the distance, just out of range of the ships guns. “Sighting, hard astern!” He looked backwards and saw that just in visible range several large ships were bearing down on the Conte di Cavour pouring fire into the ship that was unable to reply. He could not see it, but by the time the Carrier Aircraft entered range of the anti-aircraft guns of the cruiser, the Conte di Cavour had striken her flag and surrendered. The next thing he felt was a massive bang and and his world went black.


When he woke up an hour later, he was lying on the the deck of a rowboat that contained other survivors from the cruiser. He sat up over the objections of his chief of Staff who held his own arm and he saw that the cruiser was gone. Around the rowboat the crew was swimming in the cold water , clinging to pieces of wreckage and their life preservers. “What happened?” the Admiral asked. “We were hit by two torpedoes, Sir. You were knocked down, and the ship capsized. We managed to launch a few boats, we dragged you into one.”

The Admiral looked around again and saw that there was something else. “Well, for us the war is over.” he said as the British Destroyer closed in.

Photo10ddFaulknor1NPPeterCrocker1.jpg

Commander Beattie was sweating despite the time of the year. Ever since Fearless had been moved to the Mediterranean a couple of months ago, he was sweating whenever he left the confines of the ship's innards, but he did not complain. Here he was, fishing Italian POWs out of the water. “Lieutenant, bring them some coffee from the galley and tell the cook to warm up his pots.”

Soon the Admiral was standing among his men as the British were handing out Coffee, having not yet been recognized. He looked out at the sea as the British ship raced along, and decided that the day could have ended worse. He was still bleeding from a few cuts, but at least he was alive and would most likely see his daughters again. Just as he was about to turn and give himself up, when he saw something that he would not forget for the rest of his life and would recount to his grandchildren for years and years. Half a mile out from the Fearless, HMS Warspite raced past the smaller ship. The overcast broke and bathed the venerable old Battleship in light. The three giant White Ensign flying from her superstructure were stiff with the wind from Warspite's voyage, and the Admiral could see the red and white of the flag glowing in the sunlight, making the ship look like it was from another world. The raw display of naval prowess of this sight made one thing clear to him: The British had reasserted their dominance on the high seas.


This was only too true. Over the day, the British defeated the Italians in detail, smashing the remnants of Italy's pride between the Battleships and the line of Cruisers and when the day was over, the Regia Marina had been reduced to a few Squadron of Submarines,




[Notes: Sorry for the lack of detail, but University is really pressing my time, so I decided to concentrate on land combat and my off-battlefield plots. These will continue to be as detailed as usual.]
 

Doge Robert

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Boom, BOOOM, BOOOOOOM, MWAHAHAHAHAHA, I have you now Romans. Let ALL men fear and despair, the Royal Navy is HERE!!! MWAHAHAHA Boom, BOOM, BOOOOOM.... MRRRRRRRR; Ratatatatatata, BOOOM, KSSSSSSSSS; BOOOM, MWAHAHAHA....

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Ahem.. I like it... :D
 

El Pip

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A fine kicking for the Italians, one more theatre cleared by the Navy. Are they perhaps thinking now of heading to Singapore or are all battleships needed for shore bombardment for the march up Italy?