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Mike Hoyt

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Arctic Convoy
OP Scenario 1: First Convoy
17 August – 5 September 1941


Admiralty Situation:
The Prime Minister has asked for several missions in the northern waters. His list is as follows
1. Pick up a stranded infantry force from the Norwegian island of Svalbard, designate Force K
2. Send one ship, Adventure to deliver naval mines to the Soviets at Murmansk
3. Send a convoy, the Dervish Convoy, from Iceland to Murmansk with 5 large and 2 smaller merchants
4. Send a “Strength Convoy” of CVL Argus and some destroyers to Murmansk. Argus to deliver Sea Hurricanes to the Soviets, one of the destroyers should carry additional RAF ground crews.

To this list, the Admiralty decides to add CV Victorious and escorts as a distant covering force. There are also a few British and Soviet submarines at sea.

German Situation:
Need to send one convoy from Trondheim north along the Norwegian coast to deliver additional troops to the Finnish port of Petsamo. Five destroyers are available in Norway to intercept Allied convoys and four U-boats are also available.

Admiralty Plan
Force K and Adventure will sail from Scapa Flow on 17 August. Their paths will quickly diverge, Force K to sail NNE to Svalbard, skirting the pack ice, while Adventure is to roughly follow the Norwegian coast line as part of her mission is to test the German reaction. On the same day from Hvalfjordur Iceland, the Dervish convoy will sail around the northern end of the Island, then east past Svalbard, then SE, and finally west back into Murmansk. It is hoped this routing will minimize exposure to the German aircraft based in Norway.

The Strength Convoy (Argus and the fighter delivery) will follow five days later, with the much faster Victorious leaving Iceland one day after that.

German Plan
There is no secret that the Allies are planing a convoy to Svalbard, and a couple to Murmansk. There is no point in sending the destroyers to sea too early, they’ll just run out of fuel. But the U-boats could be a potent weapon if they can be placed in the right spot. A line is plotted from Scapa Flow to Svalbard, and another due east from the north coast of Iceland. Where they cross seems a likely place, and if the Murmansk bound convoys run further south they can spotted by the FW200 Condors.

17 August 1941
Aboard Matador
Ensign Henry Christian, 24 years old, watches as the port of Hvalfjordur slips away. The young ensign is in charge of the AA battery aboard the old merchant ship. Matador is part of the Dervish Convoy; five large merchants like Matador, two smaller merchants and one oiler. As escorts they have three destroyers and three mine sweepers, although Christian wonders what help the smaller minesweepers will be in the rough waters ahead.

Admiralty“All task forces sailed on time, Admiral”. The report is good news, too often schedules are disrupted by mechanical failures, but not today.

German HQ
The convoy for Petsamo leaves Trondheim, one large merchant, one small and two Mine Layers for an escort

21 August
Ensign Christian updates his diary;
Our fifth day at sea. After the initial suspense of sailing, things have been quiet. There were no submarine attacks near Iceland and we have not seen a plane in days, not since the Catalina’s from Iceland quit patrolling near us. We expect to make Murmansk on 3 September, a voyage of 18 days. Only 13 to go!

Admiralty
One report is received. A British submarine spots a small German convoy hugging the Norwegian coast line and heading north, but cannot get into firing position. Otherwise all is quiet.

German HQ
The Condors have been flying long air search missions to the NW for days, but have had no contact. The German convoy proceeds unmolested towards the North Cape. Only in the east is there any action, as Luftwaffe pilots sink a Soviet sub off Banak.

22 August
Admiralty
Things remain quiet with the convoys, but one submarine reports in. A German transport was torpedoed and sunk, while another transport and the escorts got away. Victorious sails, she’ll follow along in the wakes of the two convoys, slowing closing and hopefully being in position to provide some protection.

German HQ
A British mine-layer is spotted off the coast, apparently sailing alone. The destroyers are alerted.

23 August
Heavy snow and fierce winds, but the Condors find Adventure off Tromso anyway. They call in the destroyers, but Adventure is a fast ship and after a several hour chase in and out of the snow flurries, she manages to give the Germans the slip. The destroyers head back to port to refuel.

Ensign Christian updates his diary;
Our seventh day at sea this voyage. I fear to jinx us by mentioning it, but so far so good. We’ve suffered no attacks, have not even spotted a German plane or ship. The weather is horrible, which is good for us! Seasick beats sunk!

24 August
Admiralty
“Two reports sir. Force K was attacked by U-boats mid-morning, lost DD Anthony. It happened just about here sir, same waters the Dervish and Strength Convoys will have to cross later”. “Not to mention Force K itself on the return trip”, remarked the Admiral. “Yes sir”

“And the other report”?

“Ah, good news from the Soviets, sir. One of their subs sunk the other transport our sub reported along the coast two days ago. He says it looks like the escorts have turned back for port”

25 August
The U-boats get in one last attack on Force K as they begin to steam off to the NE. Another destroyer, Tartar, is lost. But the Soviet subs are busy too, sinking ML Bremse, the third ship lost of a four ship convoy!

Late in the day another gale blows up and the Germans lose some of their search planes trying to land in the storm.

26 August
The German destroyers put back to sea, planning to sail slowly west and take position just east of the U-boats. But two British subs are waiting and they torpedo DD Friedrich Eckoldt and Hans Lody, sinking the former.

Meanwhile, the German subs make first contact with the Dervish Convoy, coming steadily E, but can’t get into firing position. And far to the SE, ML Adventure is sunk by torpedo bombers from Kirkenes, about three days short of Murmansk. Just as the day is ending, about 2200, the German subs score again the Dervish convoy, sinking DD Active and hitting one of the large transports who manages to maintain station nonetheless.

27 August
Admiralty
“Several reports sir. Victorious has closed up on the Dervish convoy, but perhaps a bit too close. She spotted a torpedo in the water and avoided, but she has not found the U-boat yet. The Dervish convoy itself is just entering the intersection zone that Force K transited 3 days ago, they report no contacts yet. Victorious has turned NW to clear the U-boat and will refuel her destroyers while maintaining station and flying ASW patrols. Also, Force K has arrived at Svalbard and is now embarking the troops”

Ensign Christian’s diary:
2200 hours. Our first contact came just a few hours ago. We expected U-boats, this is about where another convoy reported being attacked several days ago, but instead we saw destroyers! Or maybe it was a figment of a very tired look-out. We’re all exhausted and miserably cold. In any case, ships were reported off the starboard bow of one of the outlying escorts and we swung a bit further north. The seas have died down, but the clouds and snow are nearly continuos, so it is very hard to know if there was anything out there or not…

28 August
British Admiralty
The report of possible destroyers at sea near the Dervish Convoy is quite worrisome. The decision is made to detach the cruisers with Force K, just now upping anchor at Svalbard and have the heavier ships make best speed to the SW and augment the Dervish convoy escorts. Unfortunately, best speed is much reduced, the weather has deteriorated into a full blown gale, which does have the advantage of preventing either side from making contact

29 August
An Albacore from Victorious finds and sinks a U-boat at 0730, the first Allied ASW success of the mission! But the celebration is short lived as another U-boat has apparently gotten even closer to Victorious and a torpedo slams into the carrier. Damage is minor and the thoroughly aroused destroyers and planes of the task force waste little time in finding and sinking the culprit. But it is a harbinger of things to come.

Ensign Christian’s diary:
Interesting day. The weather has cleared considerably, bad news as it exposes us to discovery. By mid-morning we spotted two large ships closing us from the NE. A very tense time, until we recognized them as British cruisers! No idea where they cam from, but they are very welcome. And they’ve already proved their worth, late afternoon the German destroyers found us again, coming up from the south. But once they spotted the cruisers they kept their distance! The hunter becomes the hunted! Only 4 more days to Murmansk.

30 August
The German seaplanes in Norway sink one of the British subs lurking off Tromso, and the German U-boats sink another destroyer escorting Force K back from Svalbard.

Victorious charges back east to try and help Force K with the U-boats. At 1600 she runs into another torpedo herself. Her hull is damaged again, as is the flight deck. She can still maintain speed and handle aircraft, albeit at a reduced rate. With all her planes in the air, on a so far embarrassingly ineffective ASW mission, she decides to head NW. Such a move will get away from the U-boats and take advantage of the better weather in the north for bringing her planes aboard. But the move is too late, she is intercepted by another U-boat who lines up an excellent shot, snapping her back. The carrier goes under about 1930.

The Admiralty, panicked at the thought of losing still more capital ships, orders the cruisers currently with the Dervish convoy to head NW, effect a rendezvous with the one remaining oiler from the covering force at least 200 miles north of the last reported U-boat, then return to Iceland.

31 August
Admiralty
“Report from Force K sir. They are in the thick of a wolf-pack. Lost another destroyer, Eclipse, and their oiler was sunk soon after”.

Head in his hands, the Admiral speaks slowly, “There is little we can do I’m afraid. Victorious is gone, they’ll just have to keep moving SW, out run the submarines”. Another sigh, “Perhaps it is a blessing the cruisers were not there, we’ve presented the Germans with enough targets today haven’t we?”

Ensign Christian’s diary:
Saw my first sea battle today, just wish I had something bigger than this AA gun to contribute! The German destroyers were back today. Our lads went out to meet them, which allowed us transports to turn away and we were not attacked. I thought I saw a shell hit on one of the German destroyers, hard to tell. What is indisputable is that DD Electra did not rejoin the convoy and Impulsive looks to be damaged, I doubt her torpedo rack will fire.

1 September
Unbelievably, the Dervish convoy has to stop. The Destroyer Escorts have belatedly reported themselves very low on fuel, insufficient to make Murmansk in fact. Oiling commences while the merchant skippers grumble or curse according to their nature. The stop may be a blessing in disguise however, as the possibility does not occur to the Germans (who could be that stupid?) and they concentrate their search further SE, closer to Murmansk.

German HQ
“Sir, the U-boats are reporting in. They can no longer maintain contact with the British ships heading towards Scapa Flow and they only have one torpedo left between them”.

“Very well. Have them return to base, they’ve certainly done plenty of damage this past week. We’ll get them replenished and back on station”.

2 September
The Dervish convoy is moving again. At 0600 they blunder straight into the ML Brummer, who declines to fight but broadcasts their position. By noon the weather has cleared and the German destroyers have come onto the scene. DD Impulsive is the only gun armed escort left and she goes under quickly as the Germans concentrate fire on her. Then they begin to target the merchant ships. The oiler is the first to go. One of the British minesweepers charges the destroyers. She has no guns, perhaps her thought was to ram, it makes no matter as the Germans blow her apart with concentrated gunfire. But her death was perhaps not in vain, for while the destroyers resume shelling the merchants they are surprisingly unable to get another hit. The German destroyers, quite low on fuel, break off to the south and head for Petsamo to refuel.

Ensign Christian’s diary:
Too tired to write much. We were attacked by destroyers again. I did not see much of that action as we also came under out first air attack today. The first planes we saw were RAF Hurricanes, must be the strength convoy behind us. But those planes just flew over on their way to Murmansk, it was the German bombers that came next. Two separate attacks, the first at 1300. I think they were surprised to receive AA fire from us merchants! No hits were scored. They flew back to base, rearmed and attacked us again around 2100 (damm this eternal sunshine!). Again, we drove them off without losing a ship. 16 hours to Murmansk!

3 September
The German bombers from Kirkenes launch their third strike against the Dervish convoy. This time luck is on their side. Two more merchants are torpedoed, and one of the last mine sweeper escorts is also sunk.

At noon the German destroyers depart Petsamo at flank speed. They have not had time to reload torpedoes, but they are eager to get back into gun range. They are too late however, at 1600 the Dervish convoy makes port. The destroyers swing NE, trying to intercept the Argus and her convoy, but the weather deteriorates further and they miss the Strength Convoy which also slips into Murmansk just before midnight.

Ensign Christian’s diary
Port! What a wonderful word. Only sleep could be better. Good old Matador is in Murmansk and we are safe. We are also quite disgusted to see the Russian fighters neatly lined up at the airfield, where were they yesterday? Surely they could have flown a little air cover for us as we were coming in? But for now, a hot meal and as much sleep as possible.


Aftermath
The British can claim some successes, Force K returned the troops from Svalbard to Scapa Flow and Argus delivered her Hurricanes to the Russians, along with the RAF personnel to keep them flying. But ML Adventure was sunk without delivering her cargo. The Dervish convoy sailed with 5 large merchants, 2 small merchants and escorts. Only one large merchant (Matador) and one small merchant, plus the last escort, made Murmansk.

The loss of Victorious was obviously the biggest shock. There had never been any intention of risking her, the mission was to provide distant cover, let her planes fly out on their ASW missions, but never let the ship herself be at risk. And yet, there was no way for her to protect the convoys without closing on them, her Albacore’s just didn’t have the range to fly effective ASW missions very far from the carrier, and that meant she herself came into range of the U-boats.

The Germans could celebrate the almost complete destruction of the Dervish convoy and sinking the carrier, but they had their disappointments as well. The German convoy to Petsamo was gutted, all of the troops lost. The destroyers sailed four separate times, achieving significant success only once. And the bombers from Kirkenes hit absolutely nothing on their first two strike missions.

In terms of Victory points, it was an overwhelming German victory. The Germans lost one destroyer, one mine layer, 2 U-boats and one each large and small merchants. The British lost Victorious and her entire air wing, nine destroyers, Adventure, two mine sweepers, four submarines, four large merchants, one small merchant and two oilers. The points for the minimal cargoes delivered in no way offsets these losses.

A final note
Henry Christian and his diary are obviously fictitious, but they have a basis in reality. Ensign Howard Carraway sailed as an AA officer on board the Troubador as part of PQ-17. Portions of his diary are reproduced in the book “Battle in the Arctic Seas” by Theodore Taylor. Written for young adults it is an easy way to get a feel for this unique theater. I hope that I was faithful to the experiences and attitudes of Ensign Carraway


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stephen newberg
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Very strongly developed narrative from the game, and a fun to read AAR. Thank you, looks good. You are tempting me...

pax, smn
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Another good session report. You should write some for other SWWAS games.

The u-boats claimed more destroyers in this session than they claimed in all of 1941! laugh That amuses me but I'm also scratching my head.
 
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simon thornton
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Quote:
The u-boats claimed more destroyers in this session than they claimed in all of 1941!


Yes I spotted that , well I dont claim to have detailed knowledge of DD's sunk by U-boats , but the U-Boats in this game seem remarkably effective against DD's. Design flaw or fluke ?
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
Yes I spotted that , well I dont claim to have detailed knowledge of DD's sunk by U-boats , but the U-Boats in this game seem remarkably effective against DD's. Design flaw or fluke ?


I don't know a detailed breakdown, but I know u-boat victories aganist escorts were rare and are rare in the other SWWAS games. Did they change the submarine rules in this game?
 
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Craig Truesdell
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Well done! was this a FTF game or PBEM? gametime?
 
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Mike Hoyt

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ctcharger wrote:
Well done! was this a FTF game or PBEM? gametime?


Solo. But I've heard there is a fair pbem community for SWWAS and I hope to try that after I finish my current pbem game of Flat Top. I'm glad you enjoyed the session
 
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Rodney Geckler
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Mike, it seems like you had a good session, As I just ordered this title, why the negative vibes in the comments section? How does the new counter art look for the Tirpitz and the rest of the Kriegsmarine? I was so dissapointed with the Bismarck/Scharnhorst counters in SWWAS Bismarck I actually returned the game.

Thanks compadre,
-Rodney
 
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Mike Hoyt

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I should just go ahead and write a review, but snapshot comments

Poor player aids (see the ones I posted instead)
Missing Bear Island and Jan Mayen land, pretty significant landmarks
Subs too powerful
Long rangea aircraft (Condors) really not a factor
Combination of slow Oilers and Zig-Zag rule means some convys cannot possibly make port in scenario time-limits (which proves to me at least that is was never play-tested)
Very long games, with essentially no variation. Yes, the make-up of a convoy changes, but the essential gameplay is the same.

I have a long-standing fascination with this theater (thanks to Alistari McLean) and enjoyed the session(s) I've played, but I think this game is more a near miss than a solid hit. If you are interested in the subject then this is certainly worth a look, but I think it could have been better with a little more effort.
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Rodney Geckler
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Thanks Mike, yeah, Bear Island probably should have warrented at least some sort of speck on the map. What sort of Solo system are you using, the ones posted on AVP seem fairly generic? I realize the SWWAS wasn't specifically designed for solo play, but so many of us play solo out of necessity. This entire series (SWWAS) warrents a more enjoyable solo system, so let's see what we can come up with. The arctic theater was brutal and unforgiving to be sure. Thanks for the play aids as well, awesome job. What other SWWAS games do you have? You've got to keep those session reports coming.
-Rodney
 
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simon thornton
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Ok I am a fan of naval games (note my icon) and the SWWAS system. I own Second World War at Sea: SOPAC and Second World War at Sea: Bomb Alley is very much on my wanted list. The Destroyer losses to U-Boat attack do seem rather excessive as Ive said.
So Ive checked on the rather excellent website www.uboat.net and in 1941 the allies lost some 50 destroyers. The vast majority of them lost to either aircraft in the Med (particulalry during the Crete campaign) or Mines in the Baltic (which accounts for almost all the Soviet Destroyers lost).

They list 5 destroyers sunk to U-Boat attack ; HMNOS Bath (Norweigan navy), HMS Broadwater , USS Reuben James and HMS Stanly all sunk on the atlantic convoys. Also HMS Cossack on a Gibralter-UK convoy.


None
where lost to U Boat action in the Artic convoys.

So you did lose as many Destroyers to submarines in one action as was lost in the entire year in all theatres. Now that said I d still play Artic convoy but I think the submarine rules may need rejigging. I will probably continue to wait for PQ-17: Arctic Naval Operations 1941-43 to satisfy my urges to game the artic convoys.
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Rodney Geckler
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Simon, excellent website my man, thanks for the link!
-Rodney
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Vincenzo Beretta
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Sorry for the necro, but while browsing AP's website I found this set of Optional Rules http://www.avalanchepress.com/ArcticConvoyOptions.php for the game. Do they fix the problems caused by the slow oilers and the zig-zag rules?
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Mike Hoyt

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Reckall wrote:
Sorry for the necro, but while browsing AP's website I found this set of Optional Rules http://www.avalanchepress.com/ArcticConvoyOptions.php for the game. Do they fix the problems caused by the slow oilers and the zig-zag rules?


I haven't tried those, but just to be clear, I don't regard the slow oilers and zigzag rules as problems themselves, they simply limit how fast a convoy can possibly make it across the map. The problem I was referring to was the turn limit, which is too low given the best rate of advance possible with the oilers and zig-zagging.

Which isn't really much of a problem as you can obviously just increase the turn limit to suit. Maybe determine the minimum number of turns it would take and use a figure of 120% of that to give the convoy some latitude in choosing their course.

The bigger implication of the too short turn limit is it, in my mind, indicates a lack of play-testing and I believe that was generally true of AVP games of this era. Not a deal breaker with this title, which actually does work just fine, more of an aside back at that time really

(BTW there is no such thing as necro with respect to a quality Session Report. Just proves it has withstood the test of time)
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