Sunday, 11 November 2012

Battle of the River Plate - Shipbase III

Following on from last month's naval theme, this month's game was a re-run of the Battle of the River Plate, using the Shipbase III computer rules.
The Scenario and set up
This famous action has always been an interesting battle for me as it pitches the much more heavily armed "Pocket Battleship" KMS Graf Spee with her 11inch main guns against the more lightly armed HMS Ajax, HMNZS Achilles and HMS Exeter armed with 6inch and 8inch guns respectively.
The starting positions
The set up recreates the movie of the battle with the Royal Navy units sighting smoke on the horizon and closing on the Graf Spee at battle stations. With the tactics agreed amongst the RN players both sides opened fire and started to take evasive action as they did. The early success went to the Kiwis with Achilles getting in some 6" strikes on Graf Spee's armoured belt causing minor damage.

First hits on the Graf Spee caused by HMNZS Achilles
The victory conditions required by each side gave objectives that helped recreate events on the day. Whilst the Graf Spee would receive points for sinking the RN cruisers, 3 for Exeter and 2 each for Achilles and Ajax, the RN would get 1 point for each 7 knots of speed reduction caused to Graf Spee.
Thus a balance of objectives were constantly on each sides minds as the engagement progressed.

Commodore Harwood's Ajax (out of picture), Achilles and Exeter close on Graf Spee.
HMS Exeter sustaining hits early on
 With HMS Exeter having the potential to cause the most damage to Graf Spee, it was not surprising when the German ship concentrated her fire on the 8" cruiser. Luckily for Exeter the initial hits were caused by the lighter guns on Graf Spee, and the damage was minimal.

HMS Exeter under fire and taking hits
The concentration of gunnery against Exeter allowed Achilles and Ajax to close slightly and both started to register hits. The damage caused was not devastating but was cumulative and the mighty Graf Spee started to slow under this barrage, whilst maintaining her attention on Exeter.

Ajax and Achilles seek to draw attention away from Exeter under fire in the background
As the range closed the Royal Navy gunners got their mark and it was only a matter of time that all three ships began to hit Graf Spee simultaneously. The great ship shuddered under the barrage and she struggled to make headway. Admiral Langsdorf was now committed to a slugging match as he could no longer choose to run.

Graf Spee takes hits from all the RN ships, knocking out guns and reducing her speed
With Graf Spee at 60% damage and her speed down to 7 knots it could only be a matter of time before the fatal blow sealed her fate. The great ship would not go down without a fight. Up to now she had concentrated her fire on Exeter with all her available guns. Luckily for Exeter she had evaded hits from the 11" guns but the smaller secondary guns had caused 30% damage and reduced her speed to about 10 knots.
HMS Exeter takes an 11inch hit  from Graf Spee

The end of the game came with a crescendo of gunnery. The three RN cruisers all struck the Spee as one with an 8" hit from Exeter penetrating the deck and sealing the Spee's fate. As the Graf Spee settled and began to sink, her response was already on its way. HMS Exeter finally took a hit from Graf Spee's 11 inch battery which penetrated the deck causing two fires and 25% damage. HMS Exeter was badly damaged but afloat.

Honours then to the Commonwealth and Commodore Harwood. It seemed a fitting game to play this close to Remembrance Sunday and with HMS Exeter representing a brave ship that has carried the name of our local city and had as part of her crew on that day one of our junior club members Grand Dad aboard.

Thanks to all involved in a fun days wargaming.


  1. Seen this played half a dozen times to various sets of rules. Never seen Graf Spee win yet. I begin to wonder if she can.

  2. Just a bit of button counting...But wasn't Harwood still only a Commodore at the time of the battle? His promotion to Rear Admiral came after the encounter with Graf Spee.

  3. Hi drusty,
    Your quite right, good spot