Friday, January 2, 2009

Annual Wooden Ships and Iron Men

War Eagles has an annual Wooden Ships and Iron Men bash on New Year's Day. Last years report is here.

This year's battle is based on the historical events that inspired some of the Horatio Hornblower novels, the Battle of Algeciras. In the first phase, the British lost a ship of the line, the first in nearly a century and so a real scandal, at Algeciras Bay. The French attempted to move the prize, with a reinforced French battle line plus a Spanish fleet to Cadiz. The British launched everything that could be readied from Gibraltar (just across the straights from Algeciras) including the ships that had been knocked about in the first phase. The British intercept at dawn outside Cadiz. (click on the photo for enlarged view)

The French admiral is tasked to make port safely, with the British prize, Hannibal. The Spanish commander is tasked to make port safely. The British admiral must retake the Hannibal to salvage his honor and received orders to prevent a junction of the French and Spanish fleets at all costs.

The intercept by the Superb missed it's goal and trailed the prize until ultimately achieving the recapture. The main French fleet sailed easily into Cadiz, since the British admiral ignored them, focusing on retaking the Hannibal.

The British frigate next to the red die managed a rake on the French tow ship, slowing it for the Superb to overtake and guaranteeing that the British admiral can head reach the tow ship and the prize. A follow on by a brig left the tow ship with a mast over the port side masking it's guns and no longer able to sail into the wind at all.

But a timely change in the wind changes things.

At the bottom we see the fate of a Spanish frigate that came out of Cadiz harbor expecting gunboats to follow, but only one did. Sailing straight into the three British ships of the line, it is a dismasted and a burning hulk that ultimately exploded between the second and third ships doing some small sail and hull damage, temporarily impairing the battle line as fires were put out all over the two ships. Above is the British brig that knocked down a mast on the French SOL towing the Hannibal and bringing it to a stop. Unfortunately, the wind change left it trapped by a French frigate and schooner and overwhelmed.

By the time the battle line closed to firing range, the fires were out and the line dished out a pounding that blew up the French tow ship in a single round. Some additional damage was done to Superb which was closing to board and the Hannibal which remained in proximity.

For reasons sufficient to the British Admiral in temporary command, (I had to leave for a RadCon committee meeting) the Spanish were allowed a negotiated free pass into Cadiz and no further action took place. IMO, the main British line should rake the leading Spanish ship, sail down the starboad side of the Spanish line, penetrating it at some point and scattering the Spaniards. The two additional British SOL's approaching should then have opportunities for additional actions and at the least, the Spanish fleet would get knocked about by the superior British gunnery and most likely a prize or two could be taken. The relatively weak Spanish gunnery would likely do some damage, but it seems unlikely to me that they would score any substantial success. I invite comment. (click on the comments button and type your thoughts)

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