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XI: 1. Opening Salvos: Operation White Eagle and Operation Catherine, February 1942

Wraith11B

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1. Opening Salvos: Operation White Eagle and Operation Catherine

Operation White Eagle--the German invasion of Poland--was largely the Heer’s show, but that didn’t preclude the Kriegsmarine from trying to gain some glory for itself. While not decisive, it did set the stage for the actions around Denmark that so radically changed the face of the Royal Navy--indeed, that virtually ripped its heart out. The engagement should not have been equal: the British navy had virtually all of the experience and the infrastructure of a mature naval power. The Kriegsmarine had virtually none of that, but what they did have was the pressure of a chief in the mold of Tirpitz: Admiral Raeder.


A review of the relative strengths of the British and German fleets.

As the invasion of Poland began, the Baltic fleet--centered on the oldest vessels in the Kriegsmarine, the pre-dreadnaught battleships Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien, as well as the light cruiser Emden--was tasked with supporting the destroyers in restricting the ability of the Polish navy to interfere with Germany’s commerce to the Scandinavian nations or to escape to British ports. Further afield, this force was supported by the Marinekampfgruppe (MKG, a surface action group) Marschall centered on the three heavy cruisers of the Deutschland-class and the three original K-class light cruisers. Raeder, ever the cautious calculator, sought to avoid the sortie of his prized battlecruisers for what he considered a side show.

The Royal Navy had been unable to grow their large surface combatant fleet in the interbellum period. Problems with constant bickering in Whitehall about the direction what little funding the senior service would be able to wrest from the penny-pinching of Westminster meant that most work focused on cheap escorts and transport vessels while the five battleships of the King George V-class and the Ark Royal-class aircraft carriers were laid down, construction proceeded so slowly that they were more charitably described as “make work” rather than serious efforts to expand the fleet; indeed, HMS Ark Royal would only commission in 1940, and HMS King George V in 1942. [NOTE: As part of the reevaluation of the direction that I took in 1943, I’m saying that they were laid down but were not in the build queue from the AI at this point. Work then proceeds until such time as they actually are constructed and commissioned.] For their part, Poland had invested heavily into the construction of additional destroyers in the interwar period, much to the detriment of its Army. The original Royal Navy plan had been similar to their plan for the previous war: a distant blockade of the German nation, as well as commerce protection for their merchant fleet. First Sea Lord Baron Ernle Chatfield, had been Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Flag Captain during the previous war’s Battle of Jutland and embodied the notion of what Winston Churchill had said of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe when he had commanded the Grand Fleet: he couldn’t win the war, but was “the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon.”


Baron Ernle Chatfield. His inability to convince Parliament to part with
more funds to rapidly procure advanced large surface combatants led
to the severe pain inflicted upon the Royal Navy in 1942.

Unfortunately for Baron Chatfield, the acquiescence of MacDonald’s government to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and their weak-willed lack of heavy funding for the Royal Navy put him in a position that he was forced balancing against an expansionist power in all three regions where the Royal Navy maintained significant interests. This conflict led to the drastic decision to concentrate the battlefleet against the Germans first, and then turning against the more distant powers in turn. Germany was largely expected to stick with its strategy from the Great War: much like Tirpitz, to maintain the Fleet in Being and thus more for show than any actual threat to the British Empire. It also ignored three key changes from the previous war: first, the pressure put upon Raeder for having demanded and received the investment of combat power centered in the battle fleet needed to be repaid with actual action. Second, the Danes and Norwegians fell well within Germany’s sphere of influence without being actual allies. Third, previous agreements to allow the Royal Navy to share the cost burden of opposing the threats to their empire had collapsed because of the British failure to recognize internal discontent in Paris and Washington which in their turn affected those governments’ support.

Pressures upon Baron Chatfield to do something to support Poland came from both within and without. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had demanded action upon a half-remembered plan advanced by his idol, Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Fisher, the “Baltic Project” which now became Operation Catherine. The first phase saw a small carrier task force dispatched to pick up the Polish destroyers and assist their withdrawal to support the Royal Navy. Phase two would be an attempted ambush by the heavy units of the Royal Navy of the Kriegsmarine when they inevitably sortied to destroy such a small task force.

The Kriegsmarine’s surprise at such a bold maneuver was telling. The scramble to ready the fleet for the pursuit of such a small squadron in what amounted to Germany’s home waters demonstrated how far OKKM had come in developing a battle-ready force in the previous six years. The first surface engagement came very late on 9 February, just hours after the commencement of combat operations against Poland. The bulk of Polish destroyers had slipped out to sea before the MKG Ostsee could invest the ports of Danzig and Gdyna but were sighted by reconnaissance aircraft deployed from the catapults of the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers of MKG Marschall in the Southern Baltic. The Polish vessels attempted to escape back deeper into the Baltic, but the two oldest Wicher-class destroyers could not outrun their opponents and instead turned to attack, sacrificing themselves so that the Grom-class vessels might successfully accomplish their mission. The heavy 11” guns of the Admiral Scheer put paid to the two vessels and the engagement ended on 10 February when the ships lost sight of one another in the darkness.


Art of the battlecruisers
Scharnhorst, Von Der Tann and Gneisenau in line ahead.

The next day, the hapless Polish destroyer fleet attempted to take revenge against the Kriegsmarine’s MKG Ostsee with an early morning torpedo strike on 11 February. Unfortunately, the destroyer screen, led ably from Emden by Admiral Bohm, disrupted their attacks and the Emden’s guns disabled and eventually sank two of the destroyer groups. When Emden later withdrew to rearm on 14 February, the two final Polish destroyer groups emerged from their hiding holes in Finland and attempted a desperate attack again, but this time they ran smack into the guns of the Schleswig-Holstein and Zerstörergeschwader 2, which cleared the ocean of the remaining Polish surface fleet.


HMS Hermes in better days.

While those series of engagements were developing, the British had rapidly formed a carrier task force centered on the light carrier HMS Hermes, escorted by two heavy cruisers HMS Berwick (Kent-subclass of the County) and HMS Frobisher (Hawkins-class), and three light cruisers Cairo, Achilles, and Dunedin; the Polish submarine squadron was in the area but did not contribute to the engagement. The task force was formed out of the ships which had just finished a training cycle and were thus notionally the best prepared vessels in the Royal Navy. They were wholly unprepared for the Kriegsmarine forces which deployed into the Kattegat: all six of the Scharnhorst- and both of the Blucher-class battlecruisers supported by the eight Leipzig- and four Stettin-class light cruisers.

The two heavy cruisers of the British task force were operating forward of the main force, while the three light cruisers screened the carrier. With this formation, the commander of the force, Admiral Henry Harwood, had expected at least part of his command to be able to escape or inflict some surprise loss upon any German vessels they encountered. Aircraft were kept down on the decks, mostly with an eye to the weather (as was typical in the Baltic in winter, it was dismal) as well as more realistic constraints (the constricted waters of the Kattegat prohibited an ability to turn into the wind for flight operations at will to keep i). The Kriegsmarine formation was led by MKG Saalwachter, which centered on the two Bluchers supported by the four Stettins, followed up by MKG Bachmann, which was Pommern, Bismarck and Tirpitz escorted by Leipzig, Albatross, Konigsburg and Mainz. The third group, MKG Warzecha, did not manage to make their way into the engagement as the trail of the fleet.



A video camera of some of the impacts from 15” shells near

Hermes.​

Thus, when the two heavy cruisers identified several silhouettes from their Type 273 radar, they only had brief moments before the horizon flashed out with fires from the guns of the two Bluchers. After only a few salvoes, the German vessels had the range and a 15” shell from Hindenburg impacted the Frobisher, detonating her magazine and sending her to the bottom, and other shells reduced Berwick to a flaming wreck, which was finished off by a torpedo spread from Leipzig. The action forced the carrier and escorts to turn away and sprint out, where they were approached later in the day by the same force. This time, however, they managed to send aloft the Hermes’ air group, and the torpedo attacks of the Swordfishes damaged the Dresden and severely crippled the Linz. In the confusion, HMS Cairo had strayed out of formation to try and assist the two heavy cruisers, but this put her in range of the trailing group of battlecruisers. Gneisenau’s guns smashed the Cairo’s bridge and rapidly put most of her guns out of action when the captain ordered her abandoned and scuttled. While the two forces continued to sight one another, the distance was too great and the carrier force withdrew. The first phase of the battles around Denmark had ended with a bloody nose for the British and failed to extract the Polish navy.

*****
Author's Note: Well, here we go into the naval pron that will make up much of the next few updates! @Axe99 will be enjoying this, at least somewhat, and I'm sure @El Pip will be stomping around about how pitiful the Royal Navy's showing is for now.
 
Last edited:

Cromwell

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Well the Royal Navy really got caught with their trousers down there. The advocates for carrier based navies are going to be left with egg on their faces unless a new encounter goes on to prove them right.
 

Rifal

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When you have been sailing around the worlds oceans more or less unchallenged for over a hundred years (and scored a major victory over your only real competition in the last war) its easy to become complacent. The Royal navy underestimated the Germans and payed for it.

Very interesting update and nice to see how Germany's odd approach to Battlecrusiers work in practice. Going to be interesting seeing them come up against something tougher, like Renow, Repulse, Hood, Nelson and Rodney. Bring on the naval pron.
 

Axe99

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Great instalment Wraith, and very enjoyable :) Although it does somewhat remind me of the state of HoI3's naval AI, which wasn't the most robust! Love the writing, video and pics :)

Ernie Chatfield
Minor point - assuming it's the same person, and you haven't retconned it's Jutland, it's Ernle Chatfield, not Ernie (so the "i" is actually a lower-case "L") - just in case of interest, has no bearing on the narrative, which is very well done :).
 

Bullfilter

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A very dramatic description of this disastrous outing for the Allies. Love a few good naval ‘money shots’. ;)
 

roverS3

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What an utter fiasco for the Royal Navy. Sending ships into the Baltic was always going to be hazardous, but sending so few of them was a recipe for disaster. The Kriegsmarine expertly prayed on the small task force, taking the maximum possible advantage of the RN's blunder. I do wonder why no land-based Air Support was called upon by the German Fleet? The fighting was within range of land-based air bases, and Bf-109's would have made short work of those Sea Gladiators, adding to the pain of the RN. As a whole, the lack of cooperation with the Luftwaffe is the only negative point of the navy's performance here.

I love that painting of Gneisenau, von de Tann, et al. Too bad the resolution isn't better. Do you have any information on who painted it and what it's called?
 

diskoerekto

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The action begins! Great writing, looking forward to the next episodes already. Germany sure is a capable brown water navy at the moment and they showed it, but the question remains how will they fare in open oceans.
 

Wraith11B

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Well the Royal Navy really got caught with their trousers down there. The advocates for carrier based navies are going to be left with egg on their faces unless a new encounter goes on to prove them right.
For sure the AI enjoys sending units that have no business being in the location they're in where they can be defeated in detail. Further, sending a small light carrier into a fight only escorted by a few heavy and light cruisers probably could be charitably described as "lunacy."

When you have been sailing around the worlds oceans more or less unchallenged for over a hundred years (and scored a major victory over your only real competition in the last war) its easy to become complacent. The Royal navy underestimated the Germans and payed for it.

Very interesting update and nice to see how Germany's odd approach to Battlecrusiers work in practice. Going to be interesting seeing them come up against something tougher, like Renow, Repulse, Hood, Nelson and Rodney. Bring on the naval pron.
Definitely. The British AI payed dearly for not continuing their normal pre-war naval builds (like seriously, Paradox...) and it shows. It unfortunately doesn't improve, either. :(

Great instalment Wraith, and very enjoyable :) Although it does somewhat remind me of the state of HoI3's naval AI, which wasn't the most robust! Love the writing, video and pics :)
Thank you, Axe. I'm hoping that my current rules on employment (ie, that vessels are "available" and such and can't be always sortied) will improve the feel of the game going forward from where I'm at in 1944.

Minor point - assuming it's the same person, and you haven't retconned it's Jutland, it's Ernle Chatfield, not Ernie (so the "i" is actually a lower-case "L") - just in case of interest, has no bearing on the narrative, which is very well done :).
I'll be fixing this shortly--probably why no naval uniformed pictures came up originally...

A very dramatic description of this disastrous outing for the Allies. Love a few good naval ‘money shots’. ;)
Dark days will continue for the Allies, unfortunately. I found that gif (it was an mp4, and wasn't showing up here for awhile, while I was losing my mind until I could convert it to gif format) on imgur and knew it would fit perfectly in my AAR...

What an utter fiasco for the Royal Navy. Sending ships into the Baltic was always going to be hazardous, but sending so few of them was a recipe for disaster. The Kriegsmarine expertly prayed on the small task force, taking the maximum possible advantage of the RN's blunder. I do wonder why no land-based Air Support was called upon by the German Fleet? The fighting was within range of land-based air bases, and Bf-109's would have made short work of those Sea Gladiators, adding to the pain of the RN. As a whole, the lack of cooperation with the Luftwaffe is the only negative point of the navy's performance here.
There is some cooperation later between the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe, but that's Goering trying to reclaim the glory and be seen as the better alternative for all air power. It doesn't necessarily work out entirely for him or for Raeder.

I love that painting of Gneisenau, von de Tann, et al. Too bad the resolution isn't better. Do you have any information on who painted it and what it's called?
I think it's called "Channel Dash" by bwan69 on DeviantArt. And I admire it. I've found a larger version which I've posted here now, check it out!

The action begins! Great writing, looking forward to the next episodes already. Germany sure is a capable brown water navy at the moment and they showed it, but the question remains how will they fare in open oceans.
In the modern era, we'd call it a Green Water navy (ie, not quite Blue Water but bigger and more effective than Brown Water, which is pure littoral and riverine), but they've dumped significant resources into it for sure.
 

diskoerekto

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In the modern era, we'd call it a Green Water navy (ie, not quite Blue Water but bigger and more effective than Brown Water, which is pure littoral and riverine), but they've dumped significant resources into it for sure.
Green was the color I was looking for, but I could only come up with brown :)

Definitely. The British AI payed dearly for not continuing their normal pre-war naval builds (like seriously, Paradox...) and it shows. It unfortunately doesn't improve, either. :(
Maybe you can add more computers to the rig and play the allies as well? That would definitely be crazy
 

TheButterflyComposer

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If the allies aren't played by computer, the axis are doomed so I'm not sure that would go with the vein of the aar...

An interesting strategy of the British to send a few ships in at a time so the germans can gun them down.
 

El Pip

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Going to be interesting seeing them come up against something tougher, like Renow, Repulse, Hood, Nelson and Rodney. Bring on the naval pron.
No, it won't be interesting. The Admiralty will drink their lead paint filled cocoa, the ships will be deployed in ineffectual penny packets and weird fleets and the Germans will sink the entire RN for zero loss. Have you never seen the HOI3 Naval AI in action before? ;)

I'm sure @El Pip will be stomping around about how pitiful the Royal Navy's showing is for now.
Once this story had the British make zero reaction to the enormous German and Italian naval build up we passed the point of any possible attachment to reality. This is not something anyone should get angry or stompy about, the only thing to do is sit back and marvel at a German world conquest by 1944. :D
 

TheButterflyComposer

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No, it won't be interesting. The Admiralty will drink their lead paint filled cocoa, the ships will be deployed in ineffectual penny packets and weird fleets and the Germans will sink the entire RN for zero loss. Have you never seen the HOI3 Naval AI in action before? ;)


Once this story had the British make zero reaction to the enormous German and Italian naval build up we passed the point of any possible attachment to reality. This is not something anyone should get angry or stompy about, the only thing to do is sit back and marvel at a German world conquest by 1944. :D
I'm looking forward to the even more extreme gymnastics that are going to be required to make the world conquest happen. Things like German factories now being manned by one guy with force powers and the US posting the Manhatten Project results along with all their prototypes and completed bombs to Berlin before killing all their scientists and surrendering.
 

El Pip

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I'm looking forward to the even more extreme gymnastics that are going to be required to make the world conquest happen. Things like German factories now being manned by one guy with force powers and the US posting the Manhatten Project results along with all their prototypes and completed bombs to Berlin before killing all their scientists and surrendering.
I remain a fan of the OTL ReichsPostMinisterium nuclear project and still hold out a hope for nuclear armed German postmen before we reach the end of the story.
 

stnylan

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I suppose it is thereotically possible the naval AI will pull out stunner.

But I am not going to hold me breath.

Actually I think writing a convincing naval war is probably one of the hardest things to do wih the HoI series generally. Each game struggles, if not always in the same fashion.
 

nuclearslurpee

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A review of the relative strengths of the British and German fleets.
As a fellow 4-DDs-per-flotilla proponent, thank you for your contribution to the cause! :D:p

Author's Note: Well, here we go into the naval pron that will make up much of the next few updates! @Axe99 will be enjoying this, at least somewhat, and I'm sure @El Pip will be stomping around about how pitiful the Royal Navy's showing is for now.
I for one look forward to some much-needed naval warfare in this forum. The armies of the world have had their days in the sun, let's have some nice big-gun action! :D

Well the Royal Navy really got caught with their trousers down there. The advocates for carrier based navies are going to be left with egg on their faces unless a new encounter goes on to prove them right.
Paging @Bullfilter from that Japan AAR... :p

Actually I think writing a convincing naval war is probably one of the hardest things to do wih the HoI series generally. Each game struggles, if not always in the same fashion.
The major issue the AI has is no sense of mission unless it's escorting a landing party. The AI tends to sail its ships around aimlessly, which the devs probably thought mimicked "patrol patterns" but really just means that the AI navies are almost always sailing about piecemeal waiting to be slaughtered.

As painful as this may be for a player to pass up, I find the best way to have a "realistic" naval war is to use fleets for mission objectives only, not for hunting and killing small packs of AI ships. That way, at least someone is using a historical naval doctrine besides the Headless Chicken Offensive...
 
Last edited:

TheButterflyComposer

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I remain a fan of the OTL ReichsPostMinisterium nuclear project and still hold out a hope for nuclear armed German postmen before we reach the end of the story.
This can only happen if the milkman conspiracy was real/wasn't stopped.

...

Its...not the unlikeliest of things compared to some events so far though so...
 

Bullfilter

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Paging @Bullfilter from that Japan AAR... :p
Well, if you send one lightly escorted old CVL into the lion’s den, that’s what you get. Properly put together, human guided modern carrier groups operating freely in the Pacific? Against AI opponents? Case closed. ;)

ps: and if the Germans had a carrier, Hermes wouldn’t have got away either! :rolleyes:
 

Surt

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When playing as Japan I usually don't trust BC's as they charge in and get mauled while the rest of the fleet stays at distance. But in this case it might be OK as there are no BB's they can split from.
 

Wraith11B

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EDIT: Also, only one more post until the top of the page, but I've got to actually write it and I don't have anything written currently so it might be a minute...

Green was the color I was looking for, but I could only come up with brown :)

Maybe you can add more computers to the rig and play the allies as well? That would definitely be crazy
If the allies aren't played by computer, the axis are doomed so I'm not sure that would go with the vein of the aar...
I did! Two are on the Allies currently (UK/US) and one for the Soviets. Three for the Italians, Japanese and Germans. I've got a few save game edits to do (nations getting puppeted and starting to cause issues means another transfer of Exp. forces to Human control) but then I'll be advancing the timeline some more.

An interesting strategy of the British to send a few ships in at a time so the germans can gun them down.
No, it won't be interesting. The Admiralty will drink their lead paint filled cocoa, the ships will be deployed in ineffectual penny packets and weird fleets and the Germans will sink the entire RN for zero loss. Have you never seen the HOI3 Naval AI in action before? ;)
Not necessarily zero losses, but for sure not as many as they probably should have. Then again, given that the AI can't properly balance their theater needs... :rolleyes:o_O:(

Once this story had the British make zero reaction to the enormous German and Italian naval build up we passed the point of any possible attachment to reality. This is not something anyone should get angry or stompy about, the only thing to do is sit back and marvel at a German world conquest by 1944. :D
I'm looking forward to the even more extreme gymnastics that are going to be required to make the world conquest happen. Things like German factories now being manned by one guy with force powers and the US posting the Manhatten Project results along with all their prototypes and completed bombs to Berlin before killing all their scientists and surrendering.
Emperor Palpatine, I presume?

I remain a fan of the OTL ReichsPostMinisterium nuclear project and still hold out a hope for nuclear armed German postmen before we reach the end of the story.
As do I. Remind me when I get to the appropriate update (so, at some point in 1943) and I'll do a post about that.

I suppose it is thereotically possible the naval AI will pull out stunner.

But I am not going to hold me breath.

Actually I think writing a convincing naval war is probably one of the hardest things to do wih the HoI series generally. Each game struggles, if not always in the same fashion.
For sure. If I had been aware of how badly the AI was cocking up everything, I might have tried to intervene earlier.

As a fellow 4-DDs-per-flotilla proponent, thank you for your contribution to the cause! :D:p
I did that for those, because the RN ordered their destroyers in groups of four from their builders. For the Italians, once they got into their higher level vessels, I am reducing their counts to two ships per unit.

I for one look forward to some much-needed naval warfare in this forum. The armies of the world have had their days in the sun, let's have some nice big-gun action! :D
Oh, it will happen, for sure. There's one more big engagement in February, then another in March, five in May and one each in June/July. So at least four, possibly nine updates right there... and only towards summer does the Luftwaffe and Marinefliegergeschwader start trying to get involved...

Paging @Bullfilter from that Japan AAR... :p

The major issue the AI has is no sense of mission unless it's escorting a landing party. The AI tends to sail its ships around aimlessly, which the devs probably thought mimicked "patrol patterns" but really just means that the AI navies are almost always sailing about piecemeal waiting to be slaughtered.

As painful as this may be for a player to pass up, I find the best way to have a "realistic" naval war is to use fleets for mission objectives only, not for hunting and killing small packs of AI ships. That way, at least someone is using a historical naval doctrine besides the Headless Chicken Offensive...
This has to got to be one of the truisms for Paradox naval AIs and one thing that I don't feel like they ever really get right. I don't know if they just don't quite grasp how a navy really works or what.

This can only happen if the milkman conspiracy was real/wasn't stopped.

...

Its...not the unlikeliest of things compared to some events so far though so...
True enough.

When playing as Japan I usually don't trust BC's as they charge in and get mauled while the rest of the fleet stays at distance. But in this case it might be OK as there are no BB's they can split from.
Mixing BC/BB fleets might be a disadvantage because of the speed advantages of the BC (ie, they're in range of the enemy fleet faster) over the BBs, or if because of the stratification of the naval units the BBs get the escorts while the BCs don't. :(

Well, if you send one lightly escorted old CVL into the lion’s den, that’s what you get. Properly put together, human guided modern carrier groups operating freely in the Pacific? Against AI opponents? Case closed. ;)

ps: and if the Germans had a carrier, Hermes wouldn’t have got away either! :rolleyes:
I dunno about that, honestly... several carriers get away from the KM/LW...
 

Finshades

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Oh dear, what a lackluster showing by the RN. And over the tattered remnants of the Polish navy, no less. Perhaps they will learn from this and not make such blunders again? Perhaps the German fleet will simply hoist the white flag and sail to London? Anyone?

At this rate, being an island will end up being very inconvenient for the Brits. The numerical superiority is still there however, so hopefully they can put it to good use, at least good enough to give us a show. Would be a shame to have all those hulls and just... fade away bit by bit. Nay, if British dominance of the seas must end, at least let it end with the thunder of guns and crashes of steel! They deserve no less.