Thursday, 25 March 2010

Nelson Confides...

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

Not quite in the literal sense, but close as SSWG members delved into the Warhammer Historical rules Trafalgar for a gripping engagement.

Last week, we had a quick refresher of the rules with 3 ships per side. This week we were back, at Quarters and cleared for action.

The Fleets

The Royal Navy has a squadron patrolling the Straight of Gibraltar. Commanded by Rear-Admiral the Rt Hon Earl of Northesk, flying his flag from HMS Bellerophon, this strong squadron consisted of seven 3rd Rate Sail of the Line.
The full order of battle is:

HMS Bellerophon (flag) 74 guns,
HMS Achille, 74 guns,
HMS Africa, 64 guns,
HMS Agamemnon, 64 guns,
HMS Ajax, 74 guns,
HMS Belleisle, 74 guns,
HMS Conqueror, 74 guns

The Franco-Spanish fleet under Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve is attempting to escape the Mediterranean with 6 Sail of the Line, 4 French and 2 Spanish.
Full order of battle:

Bucentaure (Flag) (French) 80 guns,
Aigle (French) 74 guns,
Algesiras (French) 74 guns,
Argonaute (French) 74 guns,
Argonauta (Spanish) 80 guns,
Bahama (Spanish) 74 guns

The Scenario

The Franco-Spanish fleet is beating into a stiff blow, running through the Straights of Gibraltar when the frigate HMS Euryalus spots their sails. Now informed, Rear-Admiral Carnigie aboard old Billy Ruffian quickly decides to race down upon the enemy before they can clear the Straights.

The Action

With all the ships carrying as much sail as possible, the British fleet ran before the wind finding the Franco-Spanish drawn out in a strange line abreast.
The British themselves were in 3 divisions line astern with HMS Conqueror & HMS Africa to leeward, with HMS Bellerophon & HMS Belleisle in the centre and finally HMS Achille, HMS Ajax and HMS Agamemnon to windward.

Seeing the British closing in fast, Admiral Villeneuve had no choice but to try and break through their line. Signalling a turn to larboard, the four French vessels turned and formed a line of battle showing their guns to the on coming British. This turn also brought them closer to the Spaniards who were some way to leeward and labouring up close to the wind.

The Royal Navy continued to close carrying a press of sail to into action before the Spanish could tack and come up.

Closing into long range, the British furled their courses and brought in their royals. With a flutter of signals the Leeward column turned to larboard, and ran directly towards the oncoming French line. This took them away from the Spanish who would now need to tack through the wind to get up to the action.

The two fleets converged, trading long ranged broadsides. During this crucial time, well aimed broadsides from HMS Bellerophon and HMS Conqueror stunned the Argonaute and Aigle, slacking their fire.
Meanwhile the French fleet fired high in the hope of slowing the British pursuit.
Using this lull in the French fire, both HMS Conqueror and HMS Africa turned in and closed to carronade range.

While these two ships closed in on the French, the British flag had to bear away slightly with a small blaze aboard. HMS Belleisle continued to close in too.
With all this action going on, the two Spaniards tacked. Argonauta's helm came around and she was underway but someway behind the British HMS Africa. Bahama's crew were want of sea legs and she shuddered to a halt, nose onto the wind.

As they continued to pass on opposite tacks, the French tried to close up and continued to fire high, bringing HMS Africa's mizzen mast crashing down on deck!
Captain Pellew of HMS Conqueror had other ideas however, and skillfully wore his ship across the bow of Aigle.

HMS Conqueror discharged a point blank broadside into the side of Algesiras and a terrible raking fire into the bow of Aigle who shuddered as the heavy shot crashed along her whole gundeck, dismounting guns and striking down crew.
This volley was crippling, her guns disabled and crew shattered. Seeing the devastation and with two more British 74's ranging up to rake her stern, Captain Gourrège ordered the Tricolour struck and all remaining hands to the pumps!

Seeing this fine example of seamanship, Captain Digby of HMS Africa too turned across the bow of Algesiras. Seeing this danger, Captain Tourneur took an emergency turn to larboard, and the two men of war crashed together at the bow, running foul of each other and becoming locked. With this the French tossed over grapples and attempted to board.

With all this action ongoing the leading two French ships continued to sail on while the Bahama finally managed to heave to and get under way once more. The most windward British division too was busy, carrying a fine press of sail, they raced to get into action.

The only real action during this lull was the continuation of the mortal struggle between the French 74 Algesiras and the 64 gun HMS Africa. Both ships were hit by other vessels firing support of their own. A second round of boarding attempts when on by the French crew, but finally, the day was won by HMS Africa and her captain took the sword of his opponent, claiming the Frenchman a prize.

As this took place the Spanish Argonauta beat up to engaged the HMS Africa.
With excellent timing, the HMS Achille arrived and poured in an excellent raking broadside, wrecking guns and doing much damage to the crew.

With the British reinforcements now engaged the fate of the Franco-Spanish looked grim. However, fate was kind to them as a sudden squall lashed across the seascape, reducing sight to no more than a hundred or so yards!

Leaving the British to their prizes, Admiral Villeneuve fled back to the road under Algeciras to lick his wounds and refit...

The conclusion

Excellent fun was had by all with cheers and gasps aplenty with critical hits landing everywhere.
Of my two charges, I cannot be happier. Both in the very thick of the action within pistol shot of the enemy

HMS Conqueror in particular showed a wonderfully murderous streak with 3 carronade critical hits, roughing up Bucentuare and then finally crippling poor Aigle. She showed a sturdy side too, and carried her full broadside dice at the end.

HMS Africa as in a relatively good state, the loss of her mizzen apart. Her crew however, were mangled with just one crew point left, she would be unable to take Algesiras off as a prize on her own!

Of the remaining British ships, only the flagship HMS Bellerophon had seen much action, putting out no less than 3 fires aboard!

On the Franco-Spanish side, the Aigle was crippled and the Algesiras de-crewed. The Bucentaure had been roughed up and the Spanish Argonauta fresh to the fight was already half way crippled.

A surprise change of direction from my two ships had left the Spaniards out of the fight and our excellent gun laying meant that in an equal fight there could be one victor.

Great game and more of the same next week!

As always, gallery found at:

Age of Sail

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