You are not logged in.


Thursday, June 7th 2018, 7:48pm

Cargo Ship Manchester Pride, 55 dgs 15 min North, 26 dgs 49 min West, Saturday, 26 September 1948

“Captain to the Bridge!” crackled the tannoy. The officer of the watch kept his glasses glued to the warship that was rapidly overhauling them to port.

“What is it Number One?”

“Warship sir, certainly not one of ours. Looks to be trying to come abeam of us.”

The ship’s master put his own glasses to his eyes and scanned the approaching vessel. Slim, sharp, fast – and at her masthead the colours of the Russian Federation.

“Blimey! A bloody Russian!”


Aboard the rocket cruiser Admiral Kolchak Captain Morozov was making his own estimates…

“Close to six hundred metres, slow to fourteen knots.”

When the Admiral Kolchak had come completely abeam of the Manchester Pride he started a stop-watch, and held his ship on a parallel course. “Welcoming party man the starboard rail!”

Several dozen Russian sailors took station on the ship’s starboard side, waving to the British vessel for all they were worth. Their orders were to be friendly and non-threatening. The last thing that was needed was to spook the quarry.


Have you ever seen something so strange Captain?”

“… No, but the Jerries and Frogs are supposedly running some sort of exercise. Maybe this fellow’s a part of it.”

The master considered his options. The Russian was merely matching course and speed, and held his distance. For about fifteen minutes this went on.


Morozov checked his watch. Sufficient time had passed. “Come twenty degrees to port, make your speed twenty knots.”

The Admiral Kolchak sheered off, leaving the Manchester Pride in her wake. “Ten thousand tons to add to our take.”


Saturday, June 9th 2018, 11:02am

Blackburn Firecrest TR7287 'B', Saturday 26 September

Lieutenant Commander Philip Scones was leading C Flight of 829 Squadron on a routine sweep from HMS Centaur. The four single-engined strike-fighters were cruising at 15,000 feet, they had hoped to meet some of the German reconnaissance aircraft that had been loitering for the last few days. Suddenly in his headset he heard the controller vectoring him to investigate a sighting report sent by a merchantman, the Manchester Pride. Noting the position was some sixty mile south-west of his position he altered course and the four Firecreasts began to descend.

"Blue Three to leader, I can see a ship about seven miles at ten o'clock", his headphones crackled.
Scones brought his aircraft a little further to port and could see a large cargo ship, he clicked his transmit button, "Good work Teddy, looks like we've found the Manchester Pride, keep your eyes peeled for the cruiser."
The flight circled the cargo ship at 5,000 feet, some of the sailors aboard looking up. In the distance some miles astern of the ship was a large grey ship.
"Blue leader to flight, Tally Ho! Cruiser bearing two o'clock, follow me."
Moments later they flew down the starboard side of the cruiser before banking and returning down the starboard side.

The radio chatter began; "Blue Two to leader, she's Russian allright, just spotted the Andrews Cross on her ensign."
"Blue Four here, what's that large object on her stern?"
Scones realised it was no ordinary cruiser, this was the Admiral Kolchak, a ship the Admiralty was dying to know more about.
"Ok, cut the chatter lads, let's go around again and get some pictures." he lined up on the port side for a perfect oblique shot from his F.24 camera.
Sensing they might be unwelcome if they hung around too long they climbed away heading back to their patrol area making their sighting report to the carrier.

The Admiralty, Whitehall, London, 26 September

The Second Sea Lord, Admiral Sir William Whitworth, was on duty in the Admiralty, keen to keep an eye on events in the Atlantic. More sightings from merchants had come in and finally elements of Force Y had made surface and aerial contact with 'Red North' ships heading south. Syfret's force could do little other than watch.
As the latest report came in he turned to his assistant, Captain Raddock, "I can't see why they are persisting in chasing these individual ships, in any war scenario our ships would be in convoys and protected."
"Perhaps they think it would take us time to organise a convoy system and feel they could profitably make a raid early on in any war stages before we could react," Raddock suggested.
"With a powerful submarine fleet their aim should be to use those and keep their surface ships for distracting our fleet, modern surface raiding seems unprofitable for the likely return on the risks," Whitworth replied.
"We'll see their full intent once 'Red North' makes contact with 'Blue South', it can't be long now." Raddock looked at the chart on the table.


Monday, June 11th 2018, 3:52pm

Torpillieur L'Inflexible, 52 dgs 17 min North, 26 dgs 42 min West, Saturday, 26 September 1948

The increasing volume of reports from merchantmen that had been ‘intercepted and sunk’ by marauding cruisers had at least given indication of the general location of the Alliance task force, but the weather front still caused FO Bayard concern. Yes, it was clearing, but it was clearing from west to east – thus while Bayard enjoyed improving weather and could begin to make productive use of its air assets the Alliance force was still shrouded in bad weather, with night approaching. This made the advance screen of the 13eme Flotille all the more important.

“Contact bearing Zero Four Zero mon Capitaine”.

L'Inflexible’s captain moved to the PPI scope in response. “What have we here?”

“Faint contact sir, but growing stronger. Perhaps more than one contact.”

The lookouts aloft reported nothing; whatever they were, they were already shrouded in darkness; L'Inflexible remained silhouetted against the glow of the setting sun.

Suddenly the ship was bracketed by the splashs from the fall of several heavy shells.

“Action stations!”

“Emissions contact mon Capitaine! We are being painted by emissions from cruiser-class equipment consistent with that of the Marseillaise.”

“Evasive actions! Radio a contact report to Héros and all FO Bayard.” Another salvo bracketed the destroyer – admittedly falling wide – this was an exercise after all – but the simulated danger was potent none the less.

“Come about. Flank speed. Make smoke.”

The captain looked at the exercise umpire who sat stone-faced at the chart table. A third salvo bracketed L'Inflexible. The umpire nodded; discretion, he judged, was the better part of valour and L'Inflexible’s retirement had ‘saved’ her from immediate ‘destruction’.


Wednesday, June 13th 2018, 3:59pm

Force Operationalle Bayard, 52 dgs 3 min North, 27 dgs 13 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

It was still dark, but Bailly stood on the bridge of his flagship, his cruiser glasses trained on the deck of the aircraft carrier Zélé; he could barely discern the preparation of aircraft on her deck, and then he could see the faint blue glow of the exhausts as her pre-dawn search prepared to launch. The encounter with the Alliance cruisers the previous evening – and he was very happy that L'Inflexible had been ruled ‘escaped’ – confirmed that Engel’s task force was nearby. He hoped his search aircraft would locate it; indeed, once Zélé had finished launching, she would ready what aircraft she could, to join a full deck-load strike from Héros, the preparations for which were under way.

Aircraft carrier Wallenstein, 52 dgs 9 min North, 25 dgs 18 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

While he was aware that FO Bayard was nearby, Engel had little idea exactly where they might be. He decided he would launch a limited morning search in the direction suggested by the encounter the previous evening between Marseilles and a French destroyer, but more importantly he made certain that his combat air patrols might intercept any search aircraft from Bailly’s carriers before they could report his position. He had recalled his cruisers from their ‘commerce raiding’ adventures to resume their appointed places in the task force’s screen, and the task force itself was racing southwest towards the French coast at twenty knots. They might have to absorb the first blow, but Engel was confident that a riposte would be successful.


Thursday, June 14th 2018, 2:06am

They might have to absorb the first blow, but Engel was confident that a riposte would be successful.

Well, confidence is always good! Even so, Engel has only 60% of the airgroup that Vice-Admiral Bailly can employ. ;)


Sunday, June 17th 2018, 8:34pm

Above the North Atlantic, approximately 52 dgs 8 min North 25 dgs 15 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

D for Désiré was one of the Épaulards that had been launched from Zélé earlier that morning, to search for the Alliance task force that was FO Bayard’s quarry in the exercise. Thus far their luck had not been good. The empty miles of sea stretched out below them. The pilot, André Pezon, divided his attention between scanning the sea and watching the sky for Focke-Wulfs; the air gunner did the same. Unfortunately, from Pezon’s view, the bombardier’s position was occupied by an umpire, robbing him of one set of searching eyes.

Pezon checked his fuel gage; he had not quite reached the point of no return, but would probably do so in less than an hour. Suddenly caught a glint of something above him and instinctively put the Épaulard into an evasive manoeuvre. Nevertheless he saw the red tracers from the incoming pair of German fighters stream past his cockpit. Scanning the sky he then saw the second pair making a high side attack to ‘finish’ him off.

“No report.” The umpire spoke quickly. “Take her back to the barn but the combat air patrol has caught you.”

Below, the air defence cruiser Lissa noted the course change on her electronic screens, and received confirmation from the Wallenstein that another French scout had been dealt with. There was little doubt that the task force would be found, but every minute they could keep the details of their location, course, and speed secret, would make it more difficult for the French to find them.


Monday, June 18th 2018, 6:43pm

Force Operationalle Bayard, 52 dgs 12 min North, 27 dgs 4 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

The distressing lack of success from his morning search left Bailly with two facts. Those search aircraft that had reported told him where his ‘enemy’ was not; the failure of search aircraft to report left him little doubt as to where the Alliance task force was – somewhere to the southeast of his present position, but at unknown distance. He paced the deck for a moment, pondering his next move.

"L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."

Napoleon’s dictum. Audacity in the face of a great challenge. He could order his strike aircraft aloft and send them forth in the hope that a search report would provide more exact information; or he could wait until precise information was obtained, but risk the chance that Engel might slip away.

“Signal to Zélé and Héros. Prepare to launch aircraft. Bring the squadron into the wind.”

His staff had a best-guess position for the location of the Alliance task force. He would take the chance and hopefully deal a powerful blow against the ‘enemy’.

Aircraft carrier Wallenstein, 52 dgs 6 min North 24 dgs 57 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

The ‘destruction’ of several French scout aircraft that approached the task force left Engel certain that his opponent would divine his location. He dared not risk launching his own small scouting force in an attempt to locate FO Bayard; the wind was against them, blowing strongly from the west, while there present course was southeasterly, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the hunters.

“Herr Admiral, contact report from our air patrol. Encountered French scouting aircraft – escaped in damaged condition.”

The terse report, relayed through the exercise umpires, was disheartening but not unexpected. Presuming that the French aircraft made it back to its carrier his position would become known, and an incoming strike expected soon.

Aircraft carrier Héros, 52 dgs 12 min North, 27 dgs 4 min West, Sunday, 27 September 1948

The signal lamp on the circling aircraft indicated that the returning Épaulard was ‘damaged’, its wireless inoperable among other things. The landing signals officer handled his paddles carefully to guide the plane’s pilot aboard, the aircraft catching the second wire and being jerked to a halt. Even before its propeller had come to a complete stop an officer had run from the carrier’s island superstructure to obtain the details of the location of the Alliance task force. This would be flashed to the strike aircraft already on in the air.


Wednesday, June 20th 2018, 4:20pm

Above the North Atlantic, Sunday, 27 September 1948

The aircraft of the French strike force – nearly fifty strong – had reached the last reported position of the Alliance task force and found empty ocean; it was not unexpected, as hours had elapsed since the scout had made a sighting, escaped ‘destruction’, and had made its way back to FO Bayard in damaged condition. The question for the strike leader was which direction to search? As he hesitated, the Focke-Wulfs struck.

Four came in from high above the leading fighter escort, slashing through it and scoring some ‘hits’ before diving away for the sea below – taking with them too many of the over-eager pilots of the strike escort.

“Hold your formations!” The strike leader’s effort were limited – some of the Milans stayed with the Épaulards – taking evasive manoeuvres while doing so. Into this confusion came another wedge of German fighters from the sun high above them – concentrating on the heavily loaded dive bombers and torpedo planes. The disruption of the escort gave the German planes an edge, permitting the ‘damaging’ and ‘destroying’ far too many of the strike force. Those French fighters still with the bombers had to shed their own rockets in order gain agility for intercept.

Aboard the French aircraft carriers the radio-telephone chatter told the story of confusion and ‘destruction’. The strike had flown into a classic ambush – its cohesion disrupted, aircraft eliminated or forced to jettison their ordnance, and still no better aware of the location of the Alliance task force – though it could not be far from the scene of the air battle.

Bailly took the news of the action stoically. There was enough light left that a second strike might still catch his quarry before nightfall – and the aerial ambush was a tactic that would only work once.

Aboard the aircraft carrier Wallenstein Engel watched as his fighters landed in succession to refuel and rearm. He expected that the French would be back. The far-seeing electronic eyes of Lissa and Saida had done very good service, permitting him to use his limited numbers to advantage. He wondered if his luck might hold.


Yesterday, 7:42pm

The North Atlantic, Sunday, 27 September 1948

FO Bayard

The last of FO Bayard’s outgoing second strike had barely cleared the decks of Zélé and Héros before the returning aircraft of its first strike began turning into the landing pattern of the carriers. One-by-one they thumped to down and were struck below for servicing. The reports relayed to Bailly were troubling to say the least. Between the losses of several of his scouting aircraft, and the savaging of the first strike, his air groups had lost more than fifteen percent of their strength. The exercise umpires had been tough in their assessments. Yes, some aircraft were merely ‘damaged’ and could be repaired, and spare aircraft erected, given enough time – but with nightfall coming on, time was a commodity in diminishing supply.

Alliance Task Force

Once the last of the departing French aircraft were out of range Engel ordered his ships to change course to due east, hoping to increase the distance between him and any second strike from FO Bayard, and perhaps evade it completely; in that result he put little faith. The news from the exercise umpires was of some comfort – more than twelve of the ‘attacking’ French aircraft were confirmed kills; his own losses were judged to be two fighters ‘destroyed’ and two ‘damaged beyond repair’ – five percent attrition. Night could not come soon enough.

Aeronavale Second Strike

In the final moments before launching the pilots of the aircraft comprising the second strike had been admonished to stick together, no matter what dodge their opponents might try to separate them. To these instructions the pilots remained faithful. Winging their way towards the last known position of their quarry, they found but empty ocean – something that came as no surprise. The strike leader had anticipated this, and ordered his pilots to turn eastward; a course that would put maximum distance between their target and the pursuing FO Bayard; it would also put the Alliance vessels closer to the veil of darkness.

His foresight was rewarded as the first white wakes of ships at high speed were seen, clear indicators of the course taken by their foe. Their engines strained to close the distance and the upper works of ships could soon be made out on the horizon.

Air Defence Cruiser Saida

The incoming strike had appeared some moments before at the fringes of the detection range of its equipment, and steadily moving on an intercept course. A warning was flashed to the entire task force, where ships closed up for air defence stations and the carriers launched their last fighters to join the combat air patrol umbrella. They had expected the French, and aimed not to disappoint them.