|Restoration idyll. Lying at anchor in the calm of a June morning - Three men o'war in ordinary.|
I was keen to run this scenario and determine whether it made an exciting two player wargame or, whether it was a 'play against the house' type affair.
I have explained the background in a previous post - During the Medway Raid (Tocht naar Chatham) the ultimate phase was the Dutch attack on the pre-sunk men o' war anchored in the stretch of the river between Upnor Castle and Chatham Royal Dockyard.
On paper it looks a bit one sided and even lightweight. Three anchored and decommissioned English ships of the line take a pounding from a single Dutch 4th Rate and four sacrificial fireships. The English defenders have two static land batteries forming a gateway through which the Dutch must pass. From this description the English role seems very passive and depressingly inevitable.
I wanted to play it pretty true to form but introduce enough interest both ways to make it exciting and unpredictable. It was both but not in the way that I had planned it!
The scenario has a twelve turn limit. I played it to time and then, recording the result played on for a further three turns to a conclusion out of pure curiosity.
All the details follow but here are a couple of notes to placate my obsession with detail. I used existing terrain for this run of the game and am acutely aware there are no cliffs along the Medway. Apart from the bits of high ground the river course is pretty accurate.
I assumed the wind direction was ENE and with the Dutch ships. Any ships sailing down river ie, north, moved at a speed of 4 inches to reflect the compromise of sailing into the wind but with the river flow and against the tide.
The English sunk all three ships in the shallows before the raid to prevent them being captured. The scenario has them still afloat and thus, potential prizes.
I did not place Upnor Castle and assumed that most of the Dutch frigates were preoccupied with engaging the castle whilst a single frigate and the fireships slipped by and upriver to attack the battleships. I also omitted Chatham Dockyard as it played no part in the game a would have been a little further upriver on the east bank from the scene of the action.
OBJECTIVES AND VICTORY CONDITIONS
The Dutch have twelve turns to destroy the three anchored men o'war and get away back down river if possible. The English must stop the attack with the very limited resources at their disposal. The men o' war have skeleton crews made up of fishermen, sailors and dockyard workers. These are classed as Raw. The majority of the Dutch crews are classed as Veteran.
To win the Dutch must render two or more enemy ships heavily damaged or worse. A draw would be one ship heavily damaged and another damaged. The English win if two ships or less are damaged and/or the Dutch are driven off. The Dutch may also attempt to board, capture and tow off the enemy ships but this will be very difficult under the limitations of time and resource.
As the raid was very much driven by Dutch initiative this scenario gives the Dutch player automatic control of initiative on every turn. This of course may mean he makes the English player move first with what can move such as battery refacing or the arrival of HMS Monmouth.
HMS Royal Oak, 1st Rate, Crew: RAW
HMS Loyal London, 2nd Rate, Crew: RAW
HMS Royal James, 1st Rate, Crew: RAW
All English battleships fire as 4th Rates every second turn to represent the removal of guns and skeleton crews. Each has 20 damage points.
In addition, two batteries of heavy guns are positioned on either bank north of the anchorage. These fire as 5th Rates and have 10 damage points. They cannot move location but can change facing which takes one full turn.
On the accumulation of a score of 21 (throw 1 x d6 each turn) the English will be reinforced by a ship sailing from an upriver anchorage near Rochester Bridge.
HMS Monmouth, 3rd Rate, Crew: DRILLED
|Under fire from English guns|
Harderwijck, 4th Rate, Crew: VETERAN
Catarina, Fireship, Crew: VETERAN
Pro Patria, Fireship, Crew: DRILLED
Rotterdam, Fireship, Crew: VETERAN
Drak, Fireship, Crew: DRILLED
On the accumulation of a score of 21 (throw 1 x d6 each turn) the Dutch will be reinforced by a ship sailing from Upnor Reach. The Fireships have no shooting capability.
Beschermer, 4th Rate, Crew: VETERAN
On the accumulation of a score of 31 (throw 1 x d6 each turn) the Dutch will be reinforced by a further ship sailing from Upnor Reach
Vrede, 4th Rate, Crew: VETERAN
The Medway is treacherous and difficult to navigate. a strip one inch wide on each bank creates the possibility of grounding. Any ship sailing in these zones checks every turn to determine whether it has grounded. The shallower draft Dutch vessels ground on a d6 score of 1 or 2. The English ships ground on a score of 1,2 or 3.
We are gaming, not re writing history books. I introduced a couple of twists to the scenario to maintain interest and make it more of an equal gaming experience for each side. The English have three little aids to victory - The arrival of The Monmouth from upriver where she was lurking. The ability to re site the two shore batteries to follow the enemy upriver and finally, the ability of the three battleships to offer some level of broadside capability. I think it is just enough and with luck, the English can win.
The Dutch receive support from the squadron at Upnor if their dice throwing is good. Although they probably did get some assistance, the fireships were largely on their own and Dutch admirals were reticent about pushing too far up river and getting trapped.
In Part II I'll provide the after action report.
Wargames Illustrated recently ran a piece I'd written on the Medway Raid featuring a nice illustration of the action from this very incident.