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Sunday, October 28th 2007, 4:44pm

South America - March 1935

Mar 2
10th Destroyer Flotilla deployed to the Rio Grande area to operate against Brazilian shipping and ports.

Mar 3
[A]In Paraguay I Division has begun a full-scale assault along the Rio Parana to attack the tributaries and cut off the SAE supply lines upriver. Initial gains seemed encouraging and at night a major river landing south of Encarnation bolstered the UPAF forces there and Argentine river boats in a vicious battle sunk eight RSAN riverboats in the early hours of the morning. Some 200 African troops are reported to have drowned in the river; they were part of a reinforcing convoy heading downstream.

Mar 4
[S]The four cruisers of the Arion Class cruisers belonging to the 9th Cruiser Squadron made a daring raid during the pervious night off Viedma shelling the port causing some damage. The Argentine shore batteries [four mobile 75mm M31 L/50 and four elderly 4in guns in concrete bunkers] made no response and an aerial search at dawn failed to detect the cruisers. Two Belgrano Class cruisers sortied from Comodoro Rivadavia but soon turned back.

[S] In a clash among light forces the ASW launches UJ6 and UJ8 were sunk defending a coastal convoy. Damage among the attacking crafts is unknown.

[A] Last night two Project 611 Class escorts (P602 and 605) and two MAS type MTBs (M112 and M114) attacked an African coastal convoy. In the fight the two patrol ships used their 75mm guns to sink the UJ6 and UJ8 but the MTBs were prevented from getting close enough to launch torpedoes and M113 was sunk by defensive fire from UJ7. [P602 rated 78%]

Mar 5
[A]Reports from the Paraguayan front seem promising with I Division continuing to push the RSAA towards the river and outflanking on the northern side to leave them isolated before pushing on towards Encarnation with the aid of UPAF forces in the area. The siege of Ascuncion continues and II Division in this area is sending troops further south indicating the UPAF forces seem adequate to hold the situation.

Mar 6
[S]Around thirty DB-4B "Mosquito" dive-bombers this morning made attacks on advancing Argentine troops of I Division without loss. Ten B-12 "Marauders" attacked an Argentine held airfield in Paraguay destroying six aircraft on the ground. Two aircraft were shot down by AA fire.

Mar 7
[S]Today units of the RSAF have attacked columns of Argentine vehicles heading towards the coast and also made recon missions along the border. The last sweep of the day consisting of seven F-6B "Swollow" fighters met four FMA I-100A fighters over the border area. The RSAA pilots claim one fighter shot down and one probable. Argentine pilots claimed two "Swollow" fighters damaged but only one was forced to land behind the lines.

Mar 10
[S] The seaside town of Necochea shelled by destroyers Doris and Doto of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla during a night raid. Several fires lit the sky when the RSAN units disengaged and the destruction of important fuel tanks near the harbour area is most likely. While her sister ships shelled their targets DD Dynamene dropped about 30 mines off the harbour entrance.

Mar 12
[A]I Division has liberated San Ygnacio some sixty miles from Encarnation nearly trapping some 4000 African troops in a pocket along the riverbank. They still have uninterrupted river communications despite recent sorties by the Argentine Navy and the loss of many useful river craft.

[S]Lt. Gen Kranker in charge of supplies to the Army in Paraguay has reported around three-quarters of their supplies are getting across the river and preparations are being made to assault Encarnation. Heavy RSAF bombing raids hit the Argentine towns of Formosa and Resistencia forcing the Argentine Navy to abandon a planned sortie and destroying vital army supplies. Four aircraft failed to return.

[S]The carrier Hammer has begun operations in the Southern Atlantic making routine aerial sweeps of the southern Argentine coast. A group of three torpedo boats was attacked by nine dive bombers without success.

Mar 13
[A]Four MTBs of the 1st MTB Squadron last night attacked two minesweepers of Mar del Plata. In the melee the minesweeper Dracophilus was hit by a torpedo and cut in half. She quickly sank and only around twenty survivors were picked up.
[Note] The other minesweeper engaged was MS Delosperma which is rated at 95% after the fight and remains active.

Mar 14
[A]The four cruisers of the Arion Class cruisers belonging to the 9th Cruiser Squadron last night made an attack on a southbound convoy heading from Viedma. The close escort consisting of half of the 5th Destroyer Squadron with elderly destroyers and two Indomita Class torpedo boats was under the command of Capitan de Navio Garibaldi. The cruisers opened fire at long range sighted by searchlights and star shell. Three merchant ships were lost and the brave escorts gave chase but could not catch the cruisers. E102 was sunk by gunfire from Pegasus but bravely fought till the end. Forty-seven survivors were picked up.

Mar 15
[A]The RSAA begun moving more troops into the Rio Parana pocket and begun increasing pressure on the besieged Encarnation. The advance of I Division slowed and a new line of defences further west were built. No major operations had taken place along the Argentine border with Grand Uruguay but the RSAA was still building up for an attack and consequently Argentine forces along the border were in full readiness. In the air a flight of eight I-100A fighters clashed with four F-6B fighters over Cordoba, Lieutenant de Aero Roja scoring his first kill. Two F-6B Swollows were claimed as kills for the loss of one I-100A.

Mar 17
[S] During a raid against Argentinean shipping south of Necochea RSAN destroyers Aktaia, Amphitrite and Autonome engaged two Guardia Class sloops (Presidente Gomez and Constitucion), two Chaco Class minelayers (Chubut and Chico) and the elderly destroyer Bathurst. Using a rain squall for cover the RSAN ships closed up on the port rear flank and sank the Presidente Gomez with gunfire. The two Chaco Class ships laid a smokescreen while the Bathurst launched a spread of torpedoes to force the African destroyers to turn away. The Group Commander Lt. Hudson-Crock led his destroyers round to the starboard flank and Aktaia succeeded in sinking a 4,000GRT tanker with gunfire. Bathurst turned to attack and the Constitucion opened fire at long range and hit Amphitrite twice with 100mm shells on the forecastle which did little serious damage. Setting up for another attack Lt. Hudson-Crock came under aerial attack from three Seadart biplane torpedo bombers armed with 500lb bombs. Although they missed it was enough to force the RSAN force to turn back fearing the arrival of more Argentine units [Radio intelligence would later confirm the Comodoro Py was only twenty-seven miles away to the south] and the Bathurst kept up long-range shelling which was not dangerous but sufficient to ward off any more attacks.
[Note] Amphitrite is rated at 90% after the fight and remains active, Aktaia and Autonome rated 95% and Argentine Bathurst 90%.

Mar 18
[A]The cruiser General San Martin escorted by the destroyer Heroina during the night made a sweep along the Grand Uruguayan coast laying some 60 mines and sinking two merchant ships. They were fooled into thinking the two Argentine ships were RSAN units until it was too late to escape or radio for help.
The two freighters sunk were Clement (2.723ts) and Marie-José (2.477ts). Due to the mines the Africans also lost
Julien, a 177ts fishery boat on Mar 19
Freighter Uruguay (3.425ts) on Mar 21
Freighter Astronomen (4.513ts) on Mar 26 (probably by a drifting mine)
Freighter Shikatika (5.488ts) was damaged on Mar 22.

[S]A flight of six Snider Type 24 "Shark" dive-bombers escorted by two Foller Fo 137 Mk I "Vulture" fighters from the RSAN Hammer trying to raid a small convoy of three ships escorted by two destroyers was intercepted by three Heinkel HD38 seaplane fighters belonging to the Commando de Aviacion Argentina. In a brief action one "Shark" was shot down and a single Fo 137 damaged in the port wing. In return the Argentines lost two fighters, one to Lt. Kritcher in his Fo 137 and another to the gunner of the deputy commander's "Shark". The raid failed to sink any ship and some bombers were forced to jettison their bombs early.

Mar 20
[A]The cruiser General San Martin escorted by the destroyer Heroina shadowed three RSAN cruisers believed to be Arion Class ships during the night. The enemy declined to fight and retreated eastward. Capitan de Navio Spiro did not give chase and returned to Viedma to refuel and rearm for another mine laying patrol. [For this action he was demoted a rank and posted to Viedma as a port administrator.]
[Note] The forth unit of the Arion Class, RSAN Sleipnir, had to stay in port because of some machinery problems due to sustained high speed operations.

Mar 21
[A]A new factory in Rosario suspected to belong to Gomez Steel and Armor Ltd producing tanks for the RSAA was raided by Aerea Regimenta No 4 with a force of twenty M.B.2 bombers escorted by twenty-two I-100 fighters. Bombing at 10,000ft several hits were observed but cloud cover hindered accuracy. Five fighters were lost to defending F-3C fighters. Our pilots are claiming three kills and one probable.

Mar 22
[A]Two Fokker T.IVa seaplanes sent out to locate the RSAN carrier at large in the Southern Atlantic have failed to return to base. A garbled message from one seems to indicate the enemy fleet numbering three ships is heading south.

[S] Similar to their success on the 19th of March the 9th Scout Squadron captured another freighter bound for Argentina [Note]. The ship was seized in a combined operation by floatplanes from RSAN Thjazi and the crew of cruiser Ajax which was directed to the fleeing ship by Thjazi's aircrews.
[Note] La Palomar Freighter (2,205tons)

Mar 23
[A]UPAF forces holding the southern positions around Asuncion were broken in the face of a Paraguayan Army attack and II Division had to send two Regiments back to the city to hold the line while the UPAF forces there regrouped behind new defensive lines. Another UPAF attempt to capture the airport failed with heavy casualties.

Mar del Plata in Grand Uruguay has been bombed today by a force of ten MB.1 and six M.B.2 bombers supported by around thirty I-99 and I-100 fighters. Our fighter pilots have claimed four F-6B Swollows destroyed in aerial combat. Seven of our aircraft are missing.

Mar 25
[S] 6th Torpedoboat Flotilla deployed from Montevideo to Mar del Plata to help operations against Argentinean shipping.

Mar 26
[S]A large offensive has been launched against the encircled town of Encarnation. After several bombing raids an hour long barrage broke open some of the defences. An infantry attacked stalled when Argentine Marines well emplaced in the ruins put up a hail of machine gun fire. By midday the 7th Zulu Regiment has pushed Tabor 7 back into the harbour area but with heavy losses. Another fearsome charge broke the defending UPAF soldiers and they fell back exposing the flank of Tabor 3. A few light tanks exploited this gap and by nightfall a third of the town was in African control. Attempts by the Fuerza Aerea Argentina to offer support was hampered by constant F-6 and A-18 patrols over Encarnation.

Mar 27
[S]Our gallant 9th Cruiser Squadron last night shelled Rawson with impunity causing severe dockside damage and sinking two merchant ships [Note]. This formation has been nicknamed by its crews as the "Pony Express" and has built up a fearsome reputation. The carrier Hammer made its own contribution sending ten "Shark" dive-bombers to bomb Rio Gallegos in Tierra del Fuego. They hit the airfield and destroyed three Fokker seaplanes on the ground. At dusk one of these seaplanes shadowed the carrier on her northward course. Attempts to launch a fighter to destroy it failed in the fading light and it remained in contact until 03:12am.

[A]Last night the so called "Pony Express" raided Rawson sinking a freighter and causing severe dockside damage. Once again attempts to find the raiders by air or sea and reports of routine carrier reconnaissance missions has forced the Commander-in-Chief Navy Almirante Peablo to take drastic action. Vice Almirante Bouchard's battlecruiser squadron and Vice Almirante Dominguez's heavy cruisers of the 1st Cruiser Squadron will form Force A at Viedma to defend the northern coasts. The 1st and 2nd Torpedo Boat Squadrons at Bahia will form the main northern strike force. [Force A ships Patagonia, Pampas, Veintcinco de Mayo, Almirante Brown, General Belgrano and Capitan Juan Domingo Peron]
[Note] Ships lost: Liner Dona Stella (6,860tons) and tramp steamer Cabo San Francisco de Paula (2,100 tons).

Mar 28
[A]Contact with the submarine Santa Fe operating near the River Plate estuary has been lost. She is feared sunk or damaged. [She was in fact sunk by UJ53, UJ55 and UJ56 at 11:26am after her torpedoes prematurely exploded trying to sink the cruiser Achilles]

A raid of seventeen torpedo bombers from Naval Aviacion Squadron No 8 based at Naval Air Base Viedma consisting of ten FMA I.Ae 4S torpedo bombers and ten FMA I-100 fighters failed to locate the African carrier believed to be the Forge [actually the Hammer] but they shot down a WB IX "Sea Dart" seaplane operating from the RSAN Ladon escorting the carrier Hammer.

[S]The offensive on Encarnation has continued will with only the harbour remaining in UPAF/ Argentine hands. During the night most UPAF units melted away leaving the three under-strength Argentine Tabors of Marines fighting with little or no artillery (only captured pieces), but the Fuerza Aerea Argentina has been more successful with several flights of Mapache ground-attack fighters making raids on RSAA supply dumps and a rough strip used by forward RSAF fighter patrols. Six Type 14 fighters being destroyed on the ground. I-100A fighters in the area have harried most river communications but the opinion of the Army is that the Argentines must either surrender or be picked up by another daring river raid.

Mar 30
[S]Work on a new light cruiser is finished and the vessel left her yard in Mar del Plata. RSAN Diana, first of a new class of destroyer leaders, will become flag ship of the 1st Destroyer Flotilal in Mar del Plata after completing her trials.

Mar 31
[A]The Rio Parana Support Squadron has set sail from Formosa to try and rescue the Marines at Encarnation stranded since the overland offensive has halted due to supply problems and constant probes by RSAA forces supposedly trapped along the river.

Kaiser Kirk

Lightbringer and former European Imperialist

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Sunday, October 28th 2007, 6:06pm


Mar 12
[A]I Division has liberated San Ygnacio some sixty miles from Encarnation nearly trapping some 4000 African troops in a pocket along the riverbank. They still have uninterrupted river communications despite recent sorties by the Argentine Navy and the loss of many useful river craft.

On or about March 15th, by a 78% vote, the parliament of the Kongo votes to make the 2nd & 3rd Kongo Brigades available for the "Defense or reclamation of South African Empire territories, in Africa or abroad". The Ducal council and the Queen approved the measure later in the day.

While there are 5 regular Kongo Brigades, the 1st Kongo Brigade is already deployed to the coastal regions of the Congo, and the 4th and 5th are not fully kitted out. While many would be enthused to be deployed to the war, relieving SAE troops in Cameroon may prove more useful.


The two freighters sunk were Clement (2.723ts) and Marie-José (2.477ts)

Somewhat French...or Walloon sounding. Can I ask a favor that merchants flagged to a non-combatant be specified? :)

Nicely done Hood (well all).


Sunday, October 28th 2007, 6:17pm

The Pony express is having quite the success, how long that will last will remain to be seen!


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Sunday, October 28th 2007, 8:27pm

Well, their current missions are exactly what the Arions are build for - fast in, fast out.


Sunday, October 28th 2007, 8:59pm

Well that's no good. You need to get out faster than you got in. This is especially true with trouble. :)


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Monday, October 29th 2007, 9:24am

In trouble they´ll surely run, sooner or later. We´ll then see how they fair....


Friday, November 2nd 2007, 2:19pm

More or less how I was expecting the war to progress. Quick shore bombardments and skirmishes in the skies. I am surprised that Argentina has not gone for the knock out blow with land forces - a drive towards the Plate Esturary. As time goes on, SA will be able to move more and more troops from Africa into the region. Maybe waiting for Brazil to strike harder from the North?


Friday, November 2nd 2007, 2:26pm

It's fairly clear to Germany that neither side was really ready for the war that erupted, or we should have seen land offensives at least attempted. The combat that has been reported seems the sort of skirmishing that precedes actual large-scale combat operations.


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Friday, November 2nd 2007, 2:40pm

Glad you like it and think we´re progressing things in a reasonable way. Some guesses here are also right regarding what will happen next.

Stay tuned.

PS: Me wonders if it has become obvious why those cruisers have been labelled "Pony Express"....?


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Friday, December 28th 2007, 12:44pm

The Battle of St. Helena

[Ladies and Gentlemen, the show is about to begin. Dreaming and welcome to the best.....
Well, actually the story is not yet ready to be posted in full but the SIM is proceeding and the below happened in March with an aftermath in April so I´m starting to post before it´s too late.]

[SIZE=3]The Battle of St. Helena[/SIZE]

Taken from "Running The Gauntlet - South African Cruisers In Action" by Peter Kogge (Naval Institute Press, Durban, 1983)

"[...] So in early 1935 the conflict in South America was still unfolding and spreading despite attempts by several parties to put out the fire before thousands get burned. And the more blood was shed the louder shouts for revenge became.

Early Moves

In February 1935 the Brazilians had used their battlecruisers of the Rio de Janeiro class to some success against South African shipping. On February 1st the Brazilian Navy's pride, the Rio de Janeiro, departed her namesake city with her sister Recife. According to Brazilian sources their mission was to disrupt South Africa's lines of communications and trade to Cameroon and South Africa. The South Africans were somehow caught by surprise and their counter actions to hunt down the Brazilian ship brought no success (see chapter 3 Early Operations). So the triumphantly return of the two warships to Brazil on the 22nd was an early defeat of the Royal South African Navy and felt badly. Of course the Brazilian propaganda used that successful operation to their advantage albeit their claim of "at least a dozen" vessels sunk stretched reality a bit [Note 1].

So when the South African naval intelligence reported a follow-on operation by the Brazilian battlecruisers on March 6th the RSAN would not allow being mortified again. All assets at hand including most ships cruiser-size and up as well as land-based reconnaissance aircrafts were ordered to take position and search the South Atlantic for the Rio de Janeiro and the Recife. Part of the forces involved were Montevideo´s 4th Battle Squadron, 1st and 5th Scout Squadron plus RSAN Cape Delgado of the 7th Cruiser Squadron. Additionally the 2nd Coast-Guard Flotilla would form a local screen closer to the shore east of Porto Alegre. Their back-up would be the 3rd Battle Squadron whose units of the Mauritius class were too slow to catch the Brazilians in open water. Operating out of Mar del Plata 9th Scouting would also help to cover South African shipping but was partially bound by their duty to keep an eye on the Argentinean navy. Sailing from their bases in Cameroon or South Africa 1st Battle Squadron, 4th, 6th and 8th Scout Squadron, 8th and 10th Cruiser Squadron, the latter from Durban via Cape Town, as well as 1st Coast-Guard with floatplane carrier RSAN Egdir added to the fleet of hunters showing just how serious the South Africans were to prevent a second success for the Brazilians. Despite all these units the meshes of the net woven were still quite large in the face of thousands of square kilometres of water to cover. So the Brazilian pair could not be found until they hunted down their first prey.

The Chase

The 11th of March brought a distress call from a freighter on the Cameroon - Uruguay track. The ship - identifying herself as Trevanion sailing from Douala to Montevideo [Note 2] - send "RRR attacked by raider and forced to stop" and her position before suddenly falling silent. Later investigations revealed the Rio de Janeiro opened fire with light guns on the radio room to stop the African vessel from sending. Sadly for the Africans the most important information, Trevanions position, was garbled. However, what could be read indicated a position about 500km south of the island of Ascension and so the Royal South African Navy shifted forces towards that position to decrease the meshes of their net that was about to catch the Brazilians.

Closest to the reported position was 8th Scouting with aircraft carrier RSAN Gripper which had left Douala late on March 7 and the 8th Cruiser Squadron with four light cruisers. Both units were about 600km northeast and 900km south-southeast of Ascension respectively and immediately turned toward the origin of the distress call. Further to the West 1st Scouting under command of Vice-Admiral Martijn van Spierenburg also turned towards Ascension ordering line abreast with cruiser Port Elizabeth taking the position in the North followed by battlecruisers Hertog Alexander and Hertog Rijnhard further down the line and finally Porto Alegre, also a cruiser of the Town-class of 1913, marking the lowest edge.

No contact could be made during the next 48 hours and weather conditions were decreasing. Obviously the Brazilians had escaped the South Africans. The Brazilian admiral had left the position where the Trevanion was sunk on a northerly course and closely passed Ascension to the West unnoticed. Knowing the RSAN would be on his heels he took the risk to choose the most unexpected course which would bring him very close to many eyes that could report his position and course but offered best chances to open the range to the South Africans otherwise. He retired his two ships to a position well northwest of Ascension and away from crowded tracks to refuel from an oiler. Meanwhile the South Africans too were forced to refuel and relocate their unit. The 1st Scout Squadron returned to a position between Ascension and the Brazilian coast while RSAN Gripper remained further in the South.

This was the situation when the Brazilian admiral made his next step. He gave orders for a course towards the Venezuela track hoping to catch some of the valuable oilers bringing their important freight to Uruguay. To avoid the dangers of the Brazilian coast these ships had to choose a course bringing them much deeper into the South Atlantic and pretty close to the searching battlecruisers. On March 17 they found a first victim.

For the Africans first sign of the Brazilians return to the shipping lanes was a distress call from the Maracaibo Shell, an oiler leased from the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company for the duration of the war. The ship was capable to radio "Attacked by unknown warship" and this time her position could be read by the South Africans. The Maracaibo Shell was only about 60km north-west of RSAN Port Elizabeth, being again the most northerly ship of the 1st Scout Squadron which was in line abreast to the South. Captain Muhabi immediately ordered an intercepting course and radioed his intentions to his superior onboard Hertog Alexander. Against a battlecruiser his 4,500ts cruiser would have little chance but the call had not clearly identified an enemy capital unit. Not all Brazilian cruisers were accounted for by the last intelligence report so there was a chance the attacker could also be a Bahia-class light cruiser or armed merchant cruiser that could be easily overwhelmed by the African cruiser.

During a bright day the reported position was close enough to allow visual contact within an hour but the weather had worsened and the South Atlantic had become an unfriendly place with sea state 5 to 6 and winds up to Beaufort 8. Spray and rain as wells as low clouds limited visibility changing from nil to 10km.

While the Port Elizabeth sailed to investigate Vice-Admiral van Spierenburg ordered his forces to turn west too, bringing him into a position he could intervene should his scout make contact and run into trouble. He ordered turns for 23kn knowing the Porto Alegre could hardly better that speed due to the heavy seas. In fact even that speed was too high as the weather was worse several miles to the South. The cruiser was thus starting to fall behind. Because of the squadrons original formation Hertog Alexander was ahead of her sister by about 12 miles while Porto Alegre was away about 25 miles to the south-southeast.

The Battle - Phase One

Despite being a relatively good sea boat Port Elizabeth hardly reached her top speed when heading for the reported enemy´s position. Large waves coming over her bow reduced her speed over ground to 25 knots while water running down her weather deck forced her crew into cover. All men with there stations outside were wet to the bone within seconds. Some even had to lash themselves to their equipment avoiding to be washed overboard.

At 01:48pm, which was about an hour and half after turning west, look-outs reported an unknown contact bearing 040 relatively to her bow. The shadow was about 6000m away and partially hidden in a rain squall. That first visual contact was immediately reported to Vice-Admiral van Spierenburg and the rest of 1st Scouting. About three minutes later a radio message from Port Elizabeth identified a slow running battlecruiser close to an oiler. According to studies of the Brazilians log files years after the war the Port Elizabeth opened fire at about this time with her 15cm guns and turned away to the South and later South-East. If she also launched her torpedoes at maximum range during those minutes remains unclear but is most likely.

The cruisers turn to the South reflects her skipper´s intention to avoid battle with the Brazilians as his command was badly outgunned. Instead his new course would lure the battlecruisers towards 1st Scoutings position.

If it was a smart move to open fire or if remaining silent and fade into the spray would have been a better choice remains a permanent what-if. Brazilian battle reports are not very specific if the South African cruiser was already reported before she opened fire. Fact is the battlecruisers secondaries were quick to respond but it took about 90 seconds before Rio de Janeiros main guns send out a first salvo. Initially they were trained fore and aft.

The retreating cruiser landed a first hit at about 01:53pm. The 15cm shell hit well amidship below some light guns and entered about 4 meters into the BCs superstructure where it partially exploded [Note 3]. Damage remained superficial in general but fragments of the shells base travelled further into the hull and through two bulkheads. Four Brazilian sailors of a damage control team were wounded.

Behind Port Elizabeth the Rio de Janeiro accelerated and turned to follow but range was increasing and the cruiser stood a decent chance to escape out of sight. However, before cover in form of another rain squall could be reached visual contact was made with a second large warship coming out the spray and rain further north. The newcomer was the Recife. She had been circling her sister and the Maracaibo Shell to allow a boarding party to reach the valuable prize by generating a relatively calm area inside her circling radius. With guns ablaze she now followed the Port Elizabeth south and achieved a first hit in the cruisers aft superstructure at 01:56pm with her secondaries. The 12cm projectile exploded against a 4cm twin on port. Range for this hit is given as 6400 meters in Brazilian charts.

Slowed by her turn the Port Elizabeth was working hard to increase speed and disengage but Recife´s log reports a speed of 20kn for those minutes so chances for the light cruiser to escape were small. During her first salvos the Brazilian battlecruiser was overshooting her prey but at 02:02pm a first straddle with a four gun salvo was achieved, soon followed by a second. She had not yet hit the cruiser and her sister Rio de Janeiro had come out of sight to the North so there was a chance the Port Elizabeth could survive long enough to find help.

Unknown to the Brazilians every turn of Port Elizabeth´ screws brought her closer to 1st Scouting which was sailing towards the fleeing cruisers position at best speed. Admiral van Spierenburg ordered guns loaded with AP shells at 02:12pm but no enemy battlecruiser was in line of sight yet. Steering an intercepting course according to incoming radio messages contact was expected every minute.


[Note 1]
The ships sunk during that operation were:
Feb 2 - Domingo de Larrinaga (5.358ts)
Feb 7 - Morviken (5.008ts)
Feb 8 - Nimbin (1.052ts)
Feb 14 - Empire Light (6.828ts)
Feb 17 - Tela (3.777ts)
Feb 19 - Blairlogie (4.425ts)

[Note 2]
The historical Trevanion was a british freighter of 5.299ts caught by Graf Spee and sunk on the 22nd of October 1939. Her captain J. M. Edwards ordered his radio operator N. C. Martinson to send RRR and their position in face of the German warship which immediately opened fire with heavy MGs. Edwards protected Martinson with his own body to allow the signal to be send. Both men were wounded during that action by ricochets. Sadly (for the British) Martinson made a mistake while sending the ships position not allowing any British station to get a clear signal.
Story taken from "Die Schlacht im Atlantik" by Léonce Peillard (pp. 61-62)

[Note 3]
I use this example to explain how I calculate damage (if not freestyle). The gun used is a 15L42 with a base-fuzed 47kg shell. At 6400m BigGun gives a flight time of 10,2secs and an impact angle of -5,4deg at a speed of 1640 feet/sec. For such shell (#6 on the German shell list) Facehard gives complete penetration against a 25mm plate which I assume to be used for the outer superstructure. The shell enters without nose and lower body damaged. It no longer is effective which is why I chosed "partially exploded" above.

Kaiser Kirk

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Friday, December 28th 2007, 10:14pm

I'm just glancing at the boards during...well I guess lunch is over. Look forward to indulging in this tomorrow- looks very tasty !


Saturday, December 29th 2007, 11:51am

Interesting read. I thought we'd get around to a naval action at some point. I wouldn't fancy being the captain of Port Elizabeth up against two battlecruisers. It just depends whether they can make it back to a port before the RSAN heavy units show up, though they'll have an awful job finding them given the weather.


Saturday, December 29th 2007, 12:03pm

Knowing the way things are going in the war I think this will get much more interesting.


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Saturday, December 29th 2007, 12:45pm

[Glad you liked it so far. :o) Here comes another small piece. Enjoy - it may take a few days before more will be available.]

The Battle - Phase Two

Since 02:02pm heavy shells were splashing around Port Elizabeth but had not yet hit. Reduced visibility and her trailing smoke helped the cruiser to escape time and again. As Commander Royo of the Brazilian Navy, then artillery officer on the Recife, put it in his book "The Guns Of Brasilia" after the war: "It was like shooting at a ghost. In one second she was clearly visible and the very next she disappeared in a squall or drifting smoke again, only to appear in a slightly different angle just half a minute later. To keep her under constant fire was quite difficult as we rarely could work from one straddle to the next. It was all luck to hit her."

At 02:06pm and 02:07pm the Port Elizabeth was hit again by 12cm shells but none of these were vital. Coming from the Recife well aft the first hit her boat deck and started a fire while the second smashed into her aft starboard secondary, killing most of the gun crew. In return the cruiser hit the Recife with a 15cm projectile at 02:09pm. The shell failed to explode while it passed through the port wing but a look-out was killed by splinters.

The Brazilians were closing slowly but steadily as the larger battlecruisers could achieve higher speeds in high seas. At 02:16pm range was down to a mere 5000 meters when fate finally struck the Port Elizabeth. According to Brazilian sources no direct hit had been observed but the South African unit was very closely straddled well aft. She immediately began to slightly turn west and loose speed [Note 4]. Within seconds another salvo found the cruiser and the fireball of an explosion was seen atop her amidship. Now the end was inevitable and the weather got better too, improving visibility and robbing the cruiser of her only chance to escape.

Slowing and turning Port Elizabeth soon became the centre of a hail storm of shells from the Recife and the Rio de Janeiro, the latter adding her fire power against the helpless cruiser. At 02:26pm her forward stack was shot away, her bridge holed several times and most of her guns had fallen silent. Only A mount was still firing and scored a hit against the Rio de Janeiro. The shell exploded on the aft coning tower below the battlecruisers main director which had its optics badly shaken and put out of service. Port Elizabeth´ A mount was subsequently destroyed by a 12cm shell a minute later.

At 02:30pm the Port Elizabeth was a blazing wreck with a slight list to starboard. However, she was not yet in sinking condition. Most of the damage done was atop her waterline but without steering and adrift waves began to roll over her stern. [Note 5] On the Recife it was decided to sink her with torpedoes when suddenly large water columns jumped out of the sea around.


[Note 4]
The shell came in with a very flat trajectory and hit the water next to Port Elizabeth´ stern. It splashed, skipped and hit the cruiser at the end joint of her 50mm belt. The shell entered the hull with a slight inward modification to its flight path. After 3 meters it passed through the armoured box of the cruisers rudder engine and shattered against the latter without exploding. Shrapnels and splinters travelled deeper into the hull where they devasted some crew quarters and destroyed an ammo lift for the 15cm battery above. Due to the hit the rudder engine was totally wrecked and the rudder stuck at 10 degrees to starboard.

[Note 5]
The scene, of course, is inspired by the fate of gallant Wiesbaden during the Battle of Jutland. The German light cruiser had been the center of attention for half the Grant Fleet but still denied to sink for hours. John Campell in his book "Jutland - An analysis of the Fighting" writes on page 395 "It is impossible to estimate the number of hits with accuracy , but it is thought that there were about fifteen by heavy shells (2 by 3rd BCS and 13 by battleships), 6 by 9,2in or 7,5in from Defence and Warrior and a number of 6in to 4in hits by the 2nd and 3rd LCS and the Onslow. A torpedo from the last named also hit, apparently far aft, at c1815. Both engines were disabled by a hit from 3rd BCS at or just before 1800, but Wiesbaden was till able to fire a torpedo after most of the heavy shells and the Onslow´s torpedo had hit, and she remained afloat at least until 0145."


Saturday, December 29th 2007, 1:09pm


On the Recife it was decided to sink her with torpedoes when suddenly large water columns jumped out of the sea around.

Uh oh, looks like the Brazilians took too long sinking her!


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Sunday, December 30th 2007, 4:46pm

Well, two BCs smashing a CL don´t make a good story, do they? One has to a add a bit more ... 8)

Kaiser Kirk

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Sunday, December 30th 2007, 5:54pm

Heh, actually I always liked reading the account of Warspite coming up on those Italian cruisers at night. :)

Looking forward :)


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Saturday, January 5th 2008, 12:27am

The Battle - Phase Three

Unnoticed from the Brazilians who focused on the stricken light cruiser RSAN Hertog Alexander had appeared on the scene. Visibility to the South had improved to about 17000m at times and revealed the Recife to the onrushing battle wagon. The Africans had been steaming 318° since 02:05pm and at 02:32pm turned to 285°, a simple manoeuvre to unmask their aft guns. At this time both Brazilian capital ships were visible as darker grey mass against the background, about 45° to starboard at a range of 16300m. The Brazilians were on course 160 and the Hertog Rijnhard was another 12 miles to the south-southeast. This was the situation when the battle of the large guns began.

Due to their course the Brazilian battlecruisers could only train their fore guns on the enemy so for a few precious moments RSAN Hertog Alexander had a chance to somehow cross the enemies T and use her full broadside. She did so and could fire about 7 half salvos before the Brazilians opened their arcs at 02:35pm by turning to 135° and then 110° respectively. Of these early salvos the last two had been straddles, one close enough to shower Recife´s weather deck with splinters aft.

At a range of approx. 14000m the two forces were on nearly parallel but opposite courses. Their manoeuvres had also led the two Brazilian ships on a course where the Hertog Alexander could cut off their way home while RSAN Hertog Rijnhard could hope to close from the South.

In this opening stage of the battle the South African firing was far more effective than that of the Brazilian ships which mostly fired short after their earliest salvos. The Hertog Alexander concentrated her main guns on the leading enemy which happened to be the Recife. She was hit at 02:37pm and 02:38pm and then again at 02:46pm before she turned south to force the South African ship into a turn north or otherwise have her fore guns masked. In return the Recife scored only once at 02:41pm while fire from the Rio de Janeiro was somewhat erratic and failed to achieve anything. [Note 6]

The hits at 02:37pm and 02:38pm against the Recife were on the forecastle and shelter deck and did not impair the ships fighting status generally but cost the lives of 38 sailors while many fittings were damaged or destroyed. The hit at 02:46pm was far more serious as it hit C turret and put the mount out of action. [Note 7] It might well have caused the loss of the ship but she got away trailing flames and smoke. The hit against the Hertog Alexander was also on the forecastle and had little immediate effect. [Note 8]

Hertog Alexander´s secondary battery of 15cm guns meanwhile tried their luck against the Rio de Janeiro despite the high seas. At a range of 140hm and increasing it was very unlikely something vital could be hit but the fire might cause some distraction for their targets crew. A total of 49 shells were fired between 02:36pm and 02:50pm before they ceased fire. No hits were observed but according to Brazilian reports one shell passed through antennas aft of Rio de Janeiro´s forward conning tower. The cables were ripped apart and two men on a searchlight platform nearby were wounded.

At 02:48pm the Brazilians turned to course 155. Range had increased to 15600 meters and the Hertog Alexander slowly moved into their aft sector were Recife´s fore guns would soon be incapable of reaching her. With their turn to the South the Brazilians would still be able to use their full broadsides while the Hertog Alexander would have her fore guns masked. To compensate the latter turned to North at 02:52pm to 350°. Like dancers in an abstract ballet the large warships circled each other clockwise.

Due to her targets turn the Hertog Alexander lost aim but at 02:51pm one of her shells found the Recife again, soon followed by a second. The first projectile passed through a side scuttle between funnels and burst ca. 5m inboard. Fragments made holes up to 1m x 0,8m in the 20mm upper deck but did not pierce the 12cm main deck. Considerable damage was done to all light structures near the burst and a fire started which caused the light guns atop to be abandoned. The other shell from the subsequent half salvo struck the port side of the shelter deck on a level between 2nd funnel and aft superstructure after passing through the starboard crane. It made a hole ca. 2,1m x 1,4m in the 5mm shelter deck and on of 2,2m x 3m in the port vertical 10mm plate between the shelter and weather decks, bursting 5 meters from impact over the weather deck which was here 8cm Teak on 20mm steel. The planking was torn up but the 20mm plating was only indented and not holed.

Right at 02:52pm when she started to turn to 350° the Hertog Alexander was hit too. A 30,5cm shell from the Recife hit her at the forecastle below her starboard windlass. It entered through the upper edge of the 100mm forward belt, displacing the plates during the process, and burst 2 meters from impact against a bulkhead. There were several holes in the forecastle and shell splinters struck the 100mm armour from the inside at waterline level further displacing it. Much damage was caused on both the main decks and many fittings destroyed. A fire was started in the forward canteen, filling the fore part of the ship with smoke and gases. While steaming at high speed water entered through the holes caused by this hit and spread to compartments on the lower main deck and armour decks. About 1000ts of water entered the compartments effected by this hit eventually, thought it is not clear to what extend this was also due to the hit at 02:41pm. Due to the flooding the Hertog Alexander soon got a trim towards the bow of about 4 degrees. She also had to reduce speed by a few knots for several minutes to allow her crew to stiffen some damaged bulkheads, preventing water to spread into nearby compartments.

The hit against the Hertog Alexander was achieved at a range of about 17000 meters and somehow marked the end of the fighting at this point. Due to the decreased visibility line of sight was subsequently lost to the Brazilians when they entered another rain squall, ending phase three of the battle.

The shooting between the two Brazilian battlecruisers and the Hertog Alexander had shown why the Hertogs were rated among the best shooters in the Royal South African Navy. Despite the heavy weather and superior opposing numbers the Hertog Alexander had dealt a heavy blow against her enemies. She scored more hits, one of which had the potential of being fatal for the Recife. She also proofed her 28cm guns to be still a deadly weapon against large vessels if not armoured to full battleship standards. In return she was hit only twice but her main belt was not tested. Both shells hit her well forward of her heavily protected citadel and while the individual hits were not lethal their cumulative effect impaired her fighting capabilities. Her reduced speed could turn out to be the decisive factor allowing the Brazilians to escape.


[Note 6]
An analysis after the battle came to the conclusion Rio´s fire control crew somehow missed their timing and corrected their fire solution according to splashes caused by shells fired from The Recife. How this could happen could not be brought to light but human error seems to have played a role when the Brazilians were surprised by the appearance of a South African battlecruiser. The error was later corrected and the Rio de Janeiro proofed to be at least as good a shooter as her sister.

[Note 7]
The shell which was estimated to have an angle of fall of about 10,5° to the horizontal struck on the right upper corner of the left gun port which was formed by the junction of the 21cm face plate and the 130mm roof. A piece of 21cm armour was driven into the gun-house and the shell also entered and exploded 1m from impact over the center-line of the left gun, after being deflected slightly by the gun collars. Everyone in the gun-house was killed or wounded. The front plate was blown off and came to rest upside down on the starboard about 5 meters away from the turret. A fire occurred when fragments set powder bags alight as the right gun was in the act of loading with the shell rammed home, the rammer back and the magazine hoppers loaded with powder. Gladly the flash-tight doors held and prevented the fire from spreading down to the working chamber.

[Note 8]
The hit at 02:41pm was well forward of A turret and made a large hole on the upper deck. The immediate consequences were not serious but subsequently when the battlecruiser ´s draught was increased forward by under water damage this hit allowed much water to enter the ship and spread above the armoured deck.


Monday, January 7th 2008, 10:34pm

Fun, fun, fun.

The Hertog Alexander certainly did make the Brazillian's run, but how much of this was out of a desire to preserve ships despite their potential advantage in fire-power.


Monday, January 7th 2008, 10:53pm

Probably has a lot to do with the fact that the Brazillian BCs are part of a very short list of modern Brazillian ships, while Hertog Alexander is not at all new to the RSAN. As such, the Brazillian BCs must be preserved, while the Hertog Alexander can be risked. Not to mention that the shorter range imposed by the weather favored the Hertog Alexander, with her much heavier belt armor, over the Brazillian vessels, which skimped on belt armor in favor of deck armor.