Sorry for the delay in posting the Part 2 of this scenario. No reasons other than I have been really busy on writing and photographing the next wave of 4PLAY scenarios during my annual leave. More on that soon but meanwhile....
Terrible luck befell the English. The ‘Damn your eyes!’ card was drawn and a nervous, civilian- manned battery at the north end of the New Dockyard loosed its guns in panic at the brig Skylark which had just slipped its moorings and was heading down to the fight. The close-range fire ignited its magazine and in full view of the entire dockyard, Skylark exploded and sank less than 30 yards offshore. A crushing blow. What of Monmouth? Since appearing on T8 she had progressed no further than the south edge of the dockyard being held by wind and tide in irons and powerless to progress. In clear sight of the mayhem unfolding a mile away, she could make no contribution. The Dutch star-chamber decided it was time to move from their anchorage and direct the attack from closer in. De Ruyter, with de Witt aboard the jacht Jong Prins sailed under the very muzzles of Spragge’s battery at a distance of less than one hundred yards. Ahead of the admiral’s craft English longboats attempted to grapple Gouden Appel but were fended off just at the mouth of St Mary’s Creek. The laggard burner Wapen van Londen was hit by the Bay battery as it brought up the rear of the attack flotilla.
Within sight of the target, Gouden Appel fired and her crew abandoned ship. Even as they did so, the English approached her with two longboats whilst two others tried to grapple the burners Rotterdam and Draak. One of the English boats managed to get a line onto Gouden Appel and pull her slowly towards the mouth of the creek. Soldiers, sailors and dockyard workers climbed from their longboats onto the decks of Rotterdam and Draak. After a sharp fight the Dutch prevailed and cut the damaged boats loose, sunk them and threw the English survivors overboard. Further high drama occurred when the ‘Serendipity’ card drawn earlier by the English was used to double the number of shooting dice of Spragge’s battery. His target was de Ruyter’s jacht sailing directly across the muzzles of his guns only a few score yards distant. The catastrophic hit ignited the powder store on Jong Prins which promptly disintegrated. I couldn’t believe it! I checked the officer casualty table and amazingly de Ruyter and de Witt were grazed but alive and swimming in the Medway waiting to get picked up! Elsewhere, the hapless Monmouth had grounded on a mudbank opposite the dockyard whilst at Upnor, the frigates had to hoist their anchors and move to prevent collisions as burners and jachts jostled each other through a channel less than 40 yards wide in the middle of the river.
Admiral van Ghent’s de Brak witnessed de Ruyter’s dilemma and swiftly scooped up the bedraggled power-pair who were served brandy and allowed to compose themselves. The ordeal was far from over. De Brak, having rescued the great men, was now exactly in the same position as had been Jong Prins. Spragge let loose again smashing shot into three VIPs rather than two however, no catastrophe occurred this time and although damaged, the jacht crammed with talent, pushed further upriver and beyond the arc of the English guns. As this nail-biting tension unfolded, the under-tow and blazing Gouden Appel blew herself apart. The combustible burner ignited and disappeared in the maw of St Mary’s Creek. Astonishingly, the boat and crew towing her, survived.
Hollywood-esque? Nevertheless, the Dutch trio aboard de Brak forced by the mayhem close by to hug the shore, ran aground on a mudbank in St Mary’s Creek. A few hundred yards distant, other English longboats again attempted to grapple and board the burner Draak but were swept aside. From upriver, an English fireship Hound appeared, fired, and floated toward Groningen. This largest of the Dutch frigates, had be forced upriver to avoid blocking the burner attack and now found herself struggling to turn in the shallows at the mouth of St Mary’s Creek. Her guns pointed east and west whilst the fireship approached her stern from the south.
Colonel Scott’s beleaguered garrison in Upnor Castle had thus far stoically held their ground despite the weight of incoming fire. Having now sustained 16 hits the morale rules kicked in. The check was passed with flying colours and the garrison hung on.
Just as it appeared the attack run would hit home, Hound exploded dashing English hopes. With 80% of the game time over, none of the targets had yet been attacked by the Dutch burners. Time was running out. Finally, Royal Oak, the target closest to the Dutch, was within striking distance. Rotterdam, having run the gauntlet of batteries, the castle and the longboats, fired, her crew abandoned her and, she blew up! I really could not believe it. The remaining English longboats once more tried to grapple Draak but failed. Just when it looked like she would get her run in on Loyal London the English yacht Fox hove alongside and boarded. A seesaw fight saw the English firstly ascendant and then held at bay. This fight was eating up time and Draak moved no nearer her target.
The Dutch drew yet another ‘Damn your eyes!’ card and Wapen van Londen sustained significant damage as she snuck under the muzzles of Upnor Castle’s guns barely fifty yards from the bastion. The final surviving English boat failed to grapple the duelling Draak but like the cavalry, van Ghent’s jacht cruised up and grappled Fox on her larboard side. The admiral’s and their bodyguards swung across, overwhelmed the demoralized English, captured Fox, cut loose her lines and allowed the battered burner Draak to continue on toward the targets. The final Dutch burner Princess, pointed at Royal Oak, fired, but just as this happened, a longboat grappled and pulled her away towards St Mary’s Creek in a repeat of the incident earlier in the battle. Alas, the line broke and the tide began to carry the disintegrating burner Princess back in the direction of Royal Oak.
With mayhem unfolding on the river before them, the garrison at Upnor could take no more and evacuated the castle. There was no shame in this as twenty-three hits from a possible thirty had been sustained at this point.
The last of the English longboats, barely afloat, heroically tried once more to grapple Draak and was promptly sunk for its pains. The tenacious Draak now fired and set course for Loyal London. Wapen van Londen, damaged and moving very slowly, closed on the stern of Royal Oak. Her crew fired and she was left to the tide and currents. Long abandoned and burning down, Princess drifted into Royal Oak. Finally, the first English battleship was on fire.
Turns 23 and 24
Monmouth, stumbling from one mishap to another grounded for the fourth time at White Wall Creek. Promising so much, she never got within cannon shot range of the enemy. The prize Fox, ran aground in the shallows near her point of capture and was so damage as the Dutch struggled to free her that they set her alight and abandoned their trophy. The swansong of the English defence came when the inexperienced crew of a small fireship called Sparrow pulled off an impressive bit of sailing by tacking down the eastern bank and lining up a run on Groningen which, had struggled to remove herself from the shallows around St Mary’s Creek. The large Dutch ship turned its full broadside on Sparrow, bow raking and sinking her in a matter of a few minutes. In the climactic moments of the battle the redoubtable Draak drifted into the larboard bow of Loyal London and the flames, carried by the wind, caught in the timbers of the English ship. Wapen van Londen gently drifted into the stern of Royal Oak and consolidated the already well-established conflagration begun by Princess.
All burners expended, all English resistance extinguished, van Ghent gave the signal to disengage. Upnor Castle was abandoned. Monmouth lay stranded in the mud half a mile distant. Spragge’s guns were silent and out of ammunition. The Dutch turned with the tide and headed downriver.
They had lost a yacht and all of the burners. Of the covering frigates, Vrede was unscathed, Beschermer, Groningen and Agatha had been lightly damaged with only the Harderwijck sustaining significant degradation. Anchored just off Warham sconce, the heavy guns and naval crews had poured punishing fire into her for three hours.
The English lost four longboats sunk, two fireships destroyed, one brig in an explosion and a yacht captured and burned. Upnor Castle’s garrison had been compelled to abandon the fortification. The battleships Royal Oak and Loyal London were burning uncontrollably however the Royal James remained intact.
A Dutch marginal victory. What a hard game to win.