Sunday, August 06, 2006

Amelia and Matilda go forth!

"She thought of the Königin Luise flaunting her iron cross flag on the lake where never a white ensign could come to challenge her, and of the Empire needing help, and of her brother's death to avenge." C.S. Forester.

The Congo shore of Lake Wittelsbach, Christmas 1915.

After their disasterous attempt in 1914 to raid the Belgian settlement of Port Albert (Click here for the Battle Report), the Germans restricted their activities to patrolling the lake, and searching for the seemingly fictional Belgian steamer that intelligence indicated was being prepared somewhere in the area.

But, unbeknownst to them, someone was preparing to contest their control of the lake. The Royal Navy had sent two armed motor launches, all the way from Britain by sea to the Cape, and then overland across the trackless jungles and scrub of Africa to the western shore of Lake Wittelsbach. Their task was to take, burn, or sink the"Louisa", and thus open up the way for an invasion of German Central Africa across the lake by the Belgians.

And so it was, that on one of her sweeps looking for enemy vessals, that the Louisa ran into H.M.S. Amelia and H.M.S. Matilda, the two smallest craft in the R.N. to be rated as ships. Both sides were determined to prevail, and so battle was joined.

(But, it must be told, there was a third interested party in this engagement, whose involvement could prove to be of critical importance. More of this later.)

The Table Set-up

Click on the Picture for a bigger version (that should apply to all pics. If I've managed to figure out these Blog controls, at any rate.)

Note 1: On the TV screen we see coverage of the third test at Headingly between England and Pakistan. There is a slight cricketing theme to parts of this report, so I thought I'd point that out.

Note 2: Here we see the the Kami-infested Mitsubishi, familiar to those who have read the TMP Lounge topic "The Haunted Sewing-Machine."

The Participants
The Königin Luise. Commanded by Captain Lothar Slütter, with Leutnant zur See Schweinsteiger as her First Officer. Armed with a 6pdr and Maxim Gun.

The bustling wharf at Port Albert. Amelia and Matilda hurry to get under way as the enemy is spotted on the horizon. The curious locals gawp in a slightly bewildered fashion.

Amelia, commanded by Lt. Commander Basil Simper-Spiceman, who, it must be admitted, is a complete nincompoop. His -1 modifier to British iniative tests reflects this. Unfortunately he commands this little flotilla. Also of note is Jones Junior, an American serving in the Belgian army who has somehow tagged along.

Matilda, commanded by pre-war cricketing legend Lieutenant C.J. "Cover Drive" Smythe, of Somerset and England. Both Amelia and Matilda are armed with modern 3pdrs and a Vickers MG each.

The Battle
The two launches sped off and soon accelerated to full speed. Matilda headed directly for the enemy, while Simper-Spiceman in Amelia opted to skirt around a cluster of tiny islands and try and come at the Louisa from the rear, outside of the arc of her main gun.

The Louisa and Matilda began to exchange fire. To begin with they were off their mark.

But the Louisa's gunners had Lt. zur See Schweinsteiger directing their fire, and this man knew his business. Watching the fall of shot he corrected their aim and the next shot landed right on target. Immaturin was instantly torn to pieces, and "Cover Drive" Smythe was cut down by a piece of red-hot flying metal. Blood and guts sloshed all about the deck, and the launch was thrown into confusion.

After a few moments of panicky chaos, the helmsman, McGinty regained his composure and took command. In his fury at losing two good friends he determined that the best course was to ram the Louisa! Hurtling along at full speed he steered right for the hated enemy, but despite being much less maneouverable, the Louisa managed to avoid the full force of the ram. The two craft merely brushed against one another, exchanging polite salutations and a little paint.

As Matilda passed by the stern of the Louisa, she came under terrible and persistant machine gun fire. McGinty slumped against the controls as he was hit. A stray rifle shot from a deckhand also managed to penetrate the engine and caused it to splutter and die. It seemed luck was not with the Brits this day! Matilda then, slowly drifted to a halt, leaving the sole survivor of her crew, one Loose Limbs O'Grady, in possesion of little more than a floating gun post.

But, undaunted, he continued to serve his gun, and would do so for quite some time. His fire would account for several of the Louisa's crew, but as yet did not deliver that lucky shot that would be a killing blow...

Meanwhile, back on shore, the Belgians, seeing that things were all going Germany's way, decided to manhandle their little Nineteenth Century pop-gun down to shore, in the hope of contributing to the fight.

Amelia and Matilda continued to fire on the Louisa. One shell exploded among the Bridge crew, but when the smoke cleared it became evident that only the captain's butler had been killed, showering everybody in schnapps. Slowly the Louisa was losing crewmen to their fire, but they just couldn't land any crippling blows on the ship herself.

Now it was that our interloper appeared on the scene. Another vessal, a small river cargo steamer called the African Queen. Manning the temperamental boiler was dishevelled trader Charlie Allnutt, while at the tiller was the English spinster missionary Rose Sayer. Together, after braving many dangers they had sailed down to the lake with the express purpose of sinking the Königin Luise. The African Queen had been converted into a floating bomb to achieve this aim. Ram the Louisa and she would shatter into a million splinters in the explosion, that was their hope.

By now the Louisa had turned to bring her gun to bear on Amelia. They exchanged fire, and again the Louisa had the upper hand. In a repeat performance of her attack on Matilda, she plunged a shell into the central compartment, instantly killing both Simper-Spiceman and Jones Junior. Things were beginning to look very black for the British.

(Worse than that! Indy is dead! No Raiders of the Lost Ark!)

As once again, Amelia went out of sight, Schweinsteiger turned his attention to the field gun on shore. Now he had got his eye in, and his first shot landed home. The gun was unseated from its carriage, and two of its crew were slain. Another shot killed the Belgian standard bearer, who had been frantically waving his flag on the jetty. This discouraging turn of events effectively ended any Belgian participation. They would be spectators from now onwards.

Grimly, Rose and Charlie steamed onwards towards their quarry, while the two gunboats mantained a somewhat ineffective fire.

It didn't seem like they would be able to catch the Louisa, but then suddenly Fate lent a hand. As the steamer turned around the little islands in an attempt to keep her some distance away (for the crew had suspected there was something odd going on with the African Queen) there was a jarring crunch. She had struck something hidden in the water and was now grounded, unable to move!

Now she was surely lost! Unable to get away, with the floating bomb heading right at her. Schweinsteiger was unable to bring the 6pdr to bear, and the Queen edged ever closer...

..into effective range of the Maxim Gun! The gun spluttered to life, raining lead in the direction of Charlie and Rose. The air was alive with bullets, thudding into the hull and flying past their ears. Sadly, some found their mark. Charlie fell to the deck, dying, and then Rose was hit too. There was time for one last embrace. They kissed, and then left this world together. But the Queen wasn't finished. Though losing speed quickly, and with nobody at the tiller, by some miracle she stayed on her course.

Closer and closer she came. If she could just hit the hull of the Louisa, the detonators in her bow might set off the explosives. But it was not to be. She ran out of momentum just feet from her target. It would seem British hopes were dashed again.

Before long the Louisa had managed to lift herself off the underwater obstacle and was now backing away from the dangerous drifting bomb, all the while exchanging fire with the two gunboats at long range.

The realisation dawned among the the two remaining British sailors (for Matilda's helmsman and by now also been hit) that all was lost. They were barely combat effective and the Louisa seemed to be hardly hurt at all. Luckily avoiding any crocodiles, O'Grady abandoned the immobilised Matilda and swam for the nearby Amelia, so as to join forces with her gunner. After a quick conference they decided to withdraw and try and flee to another Belgian settlement, or perhaps to merely hide somewhere until the Louisa had gone. They had seen how mercilessly competent the enemy gunners were, and hadn't the stomach to face them any more.

And so the game ended. The Louisa sank the African Queen with gunfire from a safe distance, and then sped away with the stricken Matilda in tow as a prize. German arms had triumphed this time, but Amelia was still at large. The Allies would have to formulate a new plan to gain control of the lake.

Maybe airpower was the answer?


TVAG said...

My Dear Polynikes,


A terribly disappointing game in some respects--unless you're an unreconstructed Hun Imperialist. For the Brits and Belgians the whole affair was no more than "Pink The Bismark."

Alas, poor Charlie and Rosie!

The table was excellent, the details effective, and the sloshed Schnapps smelled divine.

Less so the fresh, warm blood and guts sloshing along the decks.

Now, aren't you glad you broke down and bought that model from Richard Houston? I'd say you've made damn fine use of her and I will pass this link along to him when he returns from vacation.

Thank you also for mentioning "Boilers And Breechloaders" in the piece as well. Of course the Print Edtion of the game is just now becoming available and will go up for sale at TVAG next week. Many important changes from the version you have, you know....

In any event, PLEASE let there be a sequel to this dismal affair (unless you happen to own Hun War Bonds or an interest in East German real estate) and give the Other Empire another chance.

Perhaps you could use another, more heavily armed Brit Gunboat from Richard. Deuce if I know how you'd get it overland, but the cost be damned!

Oh, loved the little touches like the cigarette cards.

"God lives in the details...."

Plynkes said...

Thanks for your very kind words. I'm currently scratching my head over the assembly of some 1/48th scale planes that might just do the trick, and boot the Jerries off the lake once and for all.

If that fails then we will just have to "get a bigger boat."