Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Battle of Matapan

I'm reading quite a few books (one of my sins is that I can't read just one book at a time - I usually have 4-5 on the go at the same time).  Most are on navies during WW2 (In Which They Served, Citizen Sailors, Naval Battles of WW2, The Pacific Companion, etc.) as I'm boning up on my limited naval history knowledge.  I would recommend Citizen Sailors to anyone - a great read so far.

One I'm coming close to finishing is the Battle of Matapan - written by one of the crew of the Formidable.  Its a fairly well written account (he references the Italian commanders' view of what was going on at the same time) although also terribly biased!

Its a very good indication of the pros and cons of each sides attitude (British aggresiveness vs Italian caution) and also the vagaries of spotting and recognition (both sides recon aircraft correctly identified the opposition but were discounted as actually spotting separate friendly forces!).  British radar came into its own in the hunt and subsequent fight but the Italians were either unlucky or terrible shots as a very limited British aircraft force (very limited, Jonno!) got in a vital torpedo strike on the Italian flagship through a hail of supporting AA fire as well as crippling the Pola (which led to the Italians leaving a cruiser force to take on Cunningham's entire fleet - with obvious results.

The Victory At Sea rules has a couple of Matapan-related scenarios that I wouldn't mind putting on one night (with Jon's help as I need his ships!) which with a tweak or two could make for a much more even battle than the one that was fought.

For example, the Formidable had a limited number of aircraft split between a number of duties including recon, CAP and actually attack planes.  During the day, the Italian fleet were expecting cover from the Italian Air Force and bombing attacks by the Luftwaffe.  Apart from a couple of sorties by some Ju88's, there was actually no air cover available.  Had there been so, the British force would have had a much more uncomfortable day as it would have been likely that the majority of Formidable's attacking aircraft would have been lost and a decent showing by the Luftwaffe could have inflicted a significant blow on the British force.

In addition, they would have then met a full strength Italian squadron with the Vittorio Veneto unscathed and ready to try out its 15" guns in anger as well as a very powerful cruiser force (rather than a handful of cruisers, one of which was crippled).  So the action would be split between a daytime action (with a possible advantage to the Italians) followed by the night action (definite advantage to the British).

Of course, I've got to finish basing the Italians first and I'm waiting on a couple of cruisers from Skytrex to finalise the Italian fleet.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely up for playing Matapan especially if you've read up on the action.