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PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 10:15 pm 
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An entertaining account that balances action with just the right amount of background detail and exposition. Very interesting to see the approach of another chap towards retaking Hong Kong.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2015 2:26 am 
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YOu might have to wait a bit, I'm afraid, because the next three chapters will deal with the Battle of the South China Sea. Think Leyte Gulf and the Marianas rolled into one, with shades of Trafalgar.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:16 pm 
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Nice to see that this is back on track one of the best AH tales that I have ever read.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:11 pm 
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Chapter 384


It is estimated that the trees used to make the paper of all the books and other publications written on the subject of the Battle of the South China Sea could cover all of the United Kingdom and then some. Every minute aspect of the Battle has been covered in every possible way, and every form of media, from the printed word to all things electronic.

Of course the most famous treatments will always be the filmed ones.

These range from the amazingly excellent, such as the multi-BAFTA winning 'Wings of the Pacific' (2013), the rare case of a remake surpassing its already excellent 1958 original which had itself won several BAFTAs, to the amazingly awful, chiefly 1976s 'Officers' which only recovered 5% of its budget at the box office and led to the then-First Sea Lord Sir Lesley Phillips VC to sue the makers for libel because they had portrayed him as a bumbling, incompetent idiot who was most interested in chasing women. The controversy led to the film not seeing a home media release until the 1999 Christmas season, while both versions of 'Wings of the Pacific' are noted for their relative accuracy and are recommended viewing at Dartmouth and it's subsidiaries in spite of their length.

As can be seen, the cultural impact cannot be overestimated.

Quite aside from being the last major fleet action of the war fought by the Royal Navy and the last time before the Falklands War that a British Fleet Carrier would sink another, it must be credited with setting the stage for the geo-political and strategic situation of the Cold War in the South Pacific as well as the current status of the Royal Navy in that, as Winston Churchill famously remarked in 1953, 'Britain experienced a second Trafalgar'. While the statement is overly dramatic and most modern historians shy away from the overt comparison with the events of 1805 there is some truth to it anyway; though how much is hard to quantify without access to American archives.

What is known, thanks to several American defectors, is that during the late 40s and early 50s when the APN was trying to formulate a strategy to counter the Royal Navy's overwhelming strength, Washington decided against one of open confrontation and a Fleet to Fleet battle in part at least because of how the Japanese had been defeated in the South China Sea. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of that.

In Britain and the wider Empire the Battle was at first seen as just another day at the office. Only when it became apparent how much of the remaining strength of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been destroyed by it did get the attention it deserved.

~**---**~

If one is to examine the battle in detail, a look at the events leading up to it from the point of view of either combatant is needed first.

For the Allies it was more or less an accident. While it was hoped that the twin attacks on Hainan and Hong Kong would draw out elements of the Japanese fleet in order for them to be destroyed before the attack on Formosa was launched, no one really expected to fight an all-out fleet engagement. With hindsight this is a very naïve point of view, considering what is known now about Japanese intentions and motivations.

Even back then there were voices who believed from the start that nothing but massive fight could ensue of the Allied fleet operated this close to what the Japanese saw as their own heartland. Among them were most of the senior staff of Force Z in general and HMS Hood in particular.

Admiral Cunningham on the other hand believe that it was more likely that the Japanese would husband their fleet for the expected American or Allied offensives against the Home Islands and that they would make no more than a token effort to defend Formosa. Back in London opinion was divided as well, but the Imperial General Staff and the Allied Leadership Conference during the planning phases of both Jaywick Operations decided that it was worth the risk anyway.

There was confidence in the Royal Navy's ability to engage the Combined Fleet on favourable terms and defeat them in open battle, but that does not mean that there were no worries.

While the Allied Navies outnumbered the Japanese by a fair margin in Carriers as well as Dreadnoughts, damage to enough of them would severely upset plans, especially with the Audacious-Class carriers already in the fleet or still working up, and HMS Malta, lead ship of her class, not expected to enter service before February 1945. In summary, there would be a gap of several months where no additional carriers would be available to replace any that might be lost or damaged.

When these concerns were voiced to him, Admiral Cunningham said his most famous words.

'It takes us three years to build a ship. It will take three hundred years to build a new tradition. The Royal Navy will fight.'

This 'never say die' attitude meant that when the time came, the British Pacific Fleet and the various Allied detachments would engage the Japanese head on.

If there was a sufficiently decisive victory, then the Japanese would be finished at sea. The Joint Intelligence Committee had determined that the Japanese didn't have the industrial capacity to keep up with the building programme. Of course what was unknown then was that the Japanese economy was nowhere near strong enough to even replace the losses they had suffered so far, never mind expand the fleet.
That Japanese naval power was in decline was obvious, considering that the Japanese Fleet had not really been much of a factor in the South-West Pacific theatre, but it wasn't until after the war that the Allied Powers learned just how badly outmatched the Japanese had been from the start.

The other side of the coin was that for the Japanese it was the last chance, do or die.

Once again the lack of surviving records makes it difficult to determine to what extent the Japanese leadership was aware of the strategic situation.

That is not say that the information wasn't there for them to see.

Yet the amount of self-deception and doublethink going on in the Japanese High Command in the waning months of the war would have made the denizens of Orwell's '1994' proud and has been well documented there and generally outside the Navy Ministry where more records have survived. According to post-war testimony of the highest-ranking surviving Japanese officers when in Allied or American custody the mood in the halls of power during those days was one of cautious optimism and confidence in the superior fighting abilities of the Japanese sailor.

Never mind that the supposedly inferior Allied Fleets and by extension also the Americans had already done a number on the Combined Fleet, from sinking a host of Cruisers and Destroyers to blowing rather large holes into the lower hull of a supposedly unsinkable Dreadnought.

In the classic Orwellian definition of doublethink the Japanese also seem to have been aware that they would likely be doomed anyway even if they somehow managed to destroy the Allied fleet without completely gutting their own forces.

And there was of course the technological aspect.

The Allied Carriers had by this time already replaced the Seafire with the Sea Fury which was a massive jump in capability. A plane that had half again the range of a late-model Seafire on only internal fuel and twice with drop tanks, was considerably faster at most altitudes and could reach those considerably faster was a good thing of it's own, but the Sea Fury was also very nimble for a plane it's size.

By comparison, the Japanese still mostly relied on variants of the venerable but by now obsolescent Mitsubishi A6M. It's intended replacement, the A7M2 from the same company had recently entered production but was only available in small numbers, with only two squadrons converting to the type by the time of the battle and none of them were operational.

Then there were the first forms of what is today known as an ARCS (Airborne ReConnaissance System) which proved to be a decisive factor, even though then no one really knew just how much of a game-changer an airborne RDF set would end up being. Even though the Swordfish-based planes only had a single set and a single operator, they extended the range of the RDF picket far beyond the outer ring of Destroyers. Aside from being the last bi-planes in service with the Commonwealth Navies, they would end up being a major factor in the outcome of the battle.

Generally RDF would play a major role, from allowing for more accurate AA fire to the laying of the guns of Force Z during their part of the engagement, and was one more advantage for the Allies.

For all the technical expertise in electronics that West Japan offers us today, during World War Two though they were hopelessly behind the rest. To illustrate, by 1943, all British Cruisers and most of the Destroyers were equipped with RDF and by the time of the Battle of the South China Sea there were attempts to fit RDF sets even to Motor-Torpedo Boats.

To compare, only Japanese Dreadnoughts and their heavy cruisers had RDF sets which where on the whole far less resistant to battle damage and shorter ranged as well.

But saying that the outcome was a foregone conclusion is wrong.

While the Allies had the technological edge as well as superior numbers, tactical surprise and the initiative were with the Japanese. The battle was fought with fierce determination to win on both sides and the fighting was correspondingly brutal.

Image
Musashi under attack

Of course whatever plans there were for the further campaign by either side after a victory, they all ignored the third player on the scene. The Americans.

One thing the war so far had shown that for all it's size, the People's Navy was a far cry from the US Navy. The revolution and the civil war had eviscerated the Officer Corps, their tactical doctrine was heavily outdated and for all intents and purposes stuck in the early 1930s.

The course and outcome of the Battle of the South China Sea would end up forming American strategic and tactical thought for the war at sea for the Cold War in a way that no one would have expected.

Hardly surprising, considering what happened.



tbc

So, Malta-Class. Very similar to OTL, but pretty much with the dimensions of the Midway-Class, and the 6inch deck. This will make them more difficult to retrofit, but the worst of them, the angled flight deck, is as stated in this update already being incorporated. It was invented earlier than RL, sure, but I think it's one of those amazingly simple (relatively) and logical ideas that could have happened at any time. This is a departure from my original plans and I've edited the fact file accordingly.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:28 pm 
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Ah i do love this universe, so nice to see it back up

Good work


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:42 pm 
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Air hair lair, First Sea Lord, wellllll, dinnnnng donnnng!


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 3:10 am 
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Timbo W wrote:
Air hair lair, First Sea Lord, wellllll, dinnnnng donnnng!


For the benefit of those who didn't understand (or who thought Timbo had taken temporary leave of his senses), this translates to "Oh hello, 1SL, well this is all rather smashing." in Leslie Phillipsish. It's quite an accurate translation of the English.

Please search Youtube for The 13th Duke of Wymbourne to see this effect in action.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 12:15 pm 
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Well, I was on a Navy Lark bender when I first put him aboard the Hood... :D

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 6:58 pm 
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AN: This the big one, the one I've been looking forward to for years. I've considered ditching AAO a few times, but I always got back up on the horse because of this battle. The only comparable one left will be the first deployment of a Blue Danube device.


Chapter 385/Part 1


Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!


Fortune favours the bold.”
Admiral Somerville's Word of the Day, 3rd April 1944

3rd April 1944


The Battle of the South China Sea is often compared to Trafalgar by Western historians, and even though this is sometimes disputed by their British counterparts and always was by Admiral Cunningham, it did indeed cement the premier position of the Royal Navy, a position it has remained on since. Even the understandably far less sympathetic reading of events that finds itself into American textbooks acknowledges that events on those two days in April for all intents and purposes created the modern strategic situation in the region. It ended all hopes that American influence might be reasserted on the Philippines in spite of earlier agreements with the Allied Pact.

It also permanently ended Japanese naval ambitions.

The first move was made by the Japanese. In the early dawn hours of the third a Japanese submarine spotted part of the distant escorts of Force Z. The submarine fired a spread of torpedoes after sending in a contact report, yet failed to hit anything and was sunk by HMS Hotspur for its troubles. Still, it showed both sides that the other was on the move.

Japanese battleplans called for the fleet to be divided into three distinct groups. The Battle Force under Vice Admiral Kurita, consisting of all of Japan's surviving dreadnoughts, would act as a shield between the British and the Carrier Strike Force under Nagumo's personal command. The third and final group, dubbed the Distant Cover Force, consisted of much of the Combined Fleet's remaining strength of cruisers as well as appropriate if weak escorts under Rear Admiral Takahashi was a scouting/raiding force that was meant to harass the outer van of Force Z and to keep their focus away from the air strikes that were to destroy the Allied Carriers and the Force Z itself.

Some had suggested splitting the fleet even further to attack the Allies from multiple angles, but the lack of suitable escorts and the sheer strength of the Allied fleet would have made that an invitation to defeat in detail, which was why the plan was ultimately scrapped. What emerged then was a crassly unsubtle plan by Japanese standards.

The Allies on the other hand benefited from a vastly superior intelligence picture. Japanese Naval codes had been first broken in 1942, and even the changed version that had been introduced in summer 1943 had not withstood a Colossus Mk.10, the version specifically developed to speed up decryption of the old version for very long, being based on the same principles. Because of this, Admiral Cunningham was aware of Japanese plans and intentions before Captains of most of the Japanese ships involved.

It also allowed his field commander, Vice Admiral Somerville, to plan his own dispositions accordingly. In the end his plan mirrored that of the Japanese, except that the vast majority of the cruiser force remained around Hong Kong to support events there. Force Z had also been deprived of the services of the Battlecruisers which were all relegated to close escort for the carriers, much to the chagrin of their crews.

Other than that, Force Z, consisting of Prince of Wales upon which Rear Admiral Murray, OC Force Z flew his flag, Warspite, King George V, Anson, Howe, Richelieu and Jean Bart, was relatively small what with the British Pacific Fleet's other commitments and the fact that at least some naval strength needed to be kept in Europe, but their Japanese counterparts could only scrounge up five vessels in fighting condition. Still, the scene was set for what was to be the last engagement between ships of that type.

After the sighting report was received aboard Akagi and delivered to Admiral Nagumo, he ordered the Combined Fleet to proceed south at best speed and to assume battle formations. While this limited everyone to the speed the slowest units could do, Nagumo was prepared to accept that because he was well aware that despite what Radio Tokyo espoused every day, the Imperial Japanese Navy was very much on the back foot and could not afford to be too aggressive. He knew that his best chance for victory lay in getting a massive, overwhelming first strike in. He was confident that he had achieved this when this ships were within air range of the spot where the British had last been spotted, no snoopers had been detected, nor had there been any submarine sightings.

Yet fate, aided by technology, was to deliver an entirely different verdict...


~**---**~


C for Charley, 3rd April 1944, 30 miles south-south-east of the Japanese Main Body, course due north

Flying this far from the fleet without any escort in a plane that was unarmed made the pilot of C for Charley very uneasy. What was it that the chap from Raytheon had said? 'Alone, unarmed and unafraid'. If the man had been anything but a scout pilot with the American Air Corps in the last war, he'd have been slugged for such a comment. What was more, as the pilot, he was the only one aboard this Barracuda who had a window to look out.

What evened all this out, partly at least, was that with the RDF sets they had on board, the other crew members would be able to tell him from quite a distance if anything was coming their way.

Speaking of which....

“Oy, look at this, Sir. I have half a dozen contacts on bearing 030, maybe twenty-five miles away.”

“What size?”

“Small, certainly not larger than a cruiser. Hard to tell at this dist--- Hold on to your hats lads, there's just six more that popped up.... and... hell's teeth, that has to be a dreadnought... two at least!”

“Time to call it in.” the pilot said, “Sunray One-One, this is Charlie-Two Two, have sighted....”



~**---**~



The early sighting by what turned out to be the comparatively thin escort of the forward Japanese Battlesquadron certainly threw a monkey-wrench into everyone's plans, and though it affected the Japanese more, the Allies were the first to be aware of it. After short deliberations, Somerville decided to have the CANZAC force launch a limited strike. He knew that with the Japanese heavies out there, the Carriers had to be near, and he did not want to risk getting caught re-arming. With nine modern Carriers and all of them equipped with modern planes (especially the Sea Fury being a generation at least beyond anything the Japanese had) he could risk a limited strike. Some modern historians have criticized him for this penny-packet attack and the losses suffered by the CANZAC aviators, but generally back then the results were considered acceptable, especially since the Admiral could not know that the Japanese Carriers were out of position to launch an immediate attack or be attacked in return.

Two Allied submarines also converged on the reported position of the Japanese. Not because of any order they'd been given, but because some of them had copied the transmission and they did have standing orders to engage enemy shipping at their discretion. By good fortune HM Submarine Taciturn and her class-sister, the Dutch Zeehond had been both surfaced and in position to both copy the transmission and make a successful attack, though the distances involved meant that neither would be able to do so until after the CANZAC strike had taken place.

Meanwhile, the Japanese continued onwards, completely oblivious that the enemy was about to dare and attack before the plan called for it. Confidence reigned on their ships, although at least the higher officers were well aware that this was the only and last chance they had to inflict a crippling defeat. Nagumo did not expect to encounter the Allies until later in the day, so only a few scouts had been launched and by luck or misfortune, depending on how you looked at things, no one was in position to even see, never mind report the strike as it came in shortly after ten in the morning.

The Battle of the South China Sea began at 10:08 AM on 3rd April 1944.

Japanese observers did not actually detect the CANZAC aircraft until they were within about ten miles distance thanks to their inferior RDF technology. Nagumo instantly scrambled the alert fighters even though he knew that the fourteen planes (two from each of his carriers) and the two already in the air wouldn't be enough, and that the enemy would strike before more could be fuelled and armed.

Why Nagumo chose not to do so earlier is the cause of much speculation among historians and others, but no satisfying answer has ever been found. In a 1976 interview, Sir Lesley Phillips stated that in his opinion it was evidence of the sort of doublethink that the leadership of the Japanese Empire suffered from in the later years of the war, and that in Nagumo's case this was applied to say that since the plan called for the Allies to be farther south than they were, that would be so, even though Nagumo knew that the Allied fleet had been sighted steaming north and would by now have passed the position the Japanese Admiral had selected as his desired place to do battle.

However, it must be said about Nagumo that he was aware that the correlation of Forces was not in his favour.

At any rate, even as the Japanese fighters rose to battle their CANZAC counterparts, the strike divided. Since they were not accompanied by an RDF aircraft or had constant situation updates as modern technology allows today, they happened to completely miss the presence of the main body and actually attacked the ships C for Charley had reported. The small group did not actually contain a dreadnought, but rather the battlecruiser Amagi, the first and only ship of the B-65 class to be completed. As the biggest ship present, she found herself the centre of attention.

The allied strike was carried out by 'only' six strike squadrons with three for fighter escort, but those consisted of crews that had gone through the hardest school of all and were one for one far more experienced than anything the overstretched training system of the IJN could produce. A classic hammer and anvil attack was not possible, but no ship could avoid both dive and torpedo bombers, and with the torpedo-heavy airgroups favoured by the Allies the number of fish was too large to entirely avoid. Amagi was hit by no fewer than four, all on the same side. While the torpedo protection defeated the first two, in the end she was a battlecruiser and hits three and four breached enough compartments to slow her to ten knots and give her a six-degree list to starboard. Ironically the fatal blow was from a thousand pound bomb dropped by a New Zealand Spearfish.

It pierced the relatively thin deck armour and penetrated right into the forward magazine, where it detonated, shortly followed by all the armour piercing shells for the main battery.​

Image

First strike had gone to the Allies.

While that was going on, the Japanese fighters engaged their counterparts. However, in the first major engagement for several months, they found the Hawker Sea Fury an entirely different proposition to the short-ranged Seafires they had faced previously. So only three Japanese planes managed to return to their ships, having shot down a grand total of one Sea Fury in return.

All they had accomplished was to remind Admiral Somerville of the possible presence of enemy aircraft carriers and alerted him to their actual position. Obviously, a major strike was immediately ordered.

The non-CANZAC carriers could potentially launch almost six-hundred aircraft, with the remaining CANZAC fighters being kept back for local defence. It was the biggest air armada the Royal Navy had ever assembled and would be the largest single strike of the day.

On the other side, the Japanese were reviewing their options. Unlike the Allies, they only knew that the enemy carriers were close, and had no idea exactly where to send their own attack. Scouts were launched and sent into the general direction from which the CANZAC strike had come, but it would be some time before anything could be discovered. In the meantime they re-ordered a formation that had been thrown into disarray by the unexpected attack.

Just as Taciturn and Zeehond arrived. Not aware of the other's presence, they both made independent approaches, aiming for where the screen had been thinned out by the air-raid. Taciturn fired first, its four torpedoes making a beeline for Akagi. However, they were spotted, and in the end only one of them hit and turned out to be a dud. Still, it disorganized the Japanese and allowed Zeehond to make an unopposed, textbook-perfect attack against the Japanese western screen. Her Captain aimed for what his log described as a 'cruiser sized ship', probably either a large Destroyer or a plain misidentification as at that point there were no cruisers in near her position. At any rate, the Destroyer Hibiki just so happened to move directly into the torpedo tracks, was hit by two of the 21'' weapons with predictable results.

However, the consequences of these twin attacks were far-reaching. Believing himself under general submarine attack, Nagumo ordered the fleet to its best possible speed to close the distance with the enemy and reduce the effectiveness of the Allied wolfpacks he was sure were lurking for him there. The course he chose was based on the direction the Allied air strike had come from, but it was not quite the correct one. If both sides followed the courses they had when Nagumo gave that order, at 13:12 AM, they would pass each other at a distance of less than fifty miles.

A second move he made was to send out more scouts.

One of them spotted the Allied ships only a short time before the second Allied strike sighted the Japanese carriers, and only a short report was broadcast before the singe Aichie E16A in range was shot down by an RNZN Sea Fury.​

Image

The above scout being launched​

Had Nagumo not ordered a strike being prepared long before his scouts spotted the enemy, what happened next could have been the end of the battles aerial portion, because less than half an hour after the last Japanese plane had disappeared from view in one direction, a cloud of allied aircraft appeared from the other. Knowing that he would have to hit hard and fast, Nagumo had kept a grand total of one fighter squadron back for defence. He had gambled that Admiral Cunningham would close the range further before launching an attack. The Japanese rose to the challenge and tried to break through to the strike planes, but they were outnumbered by almost 16 to 1 in just fighters, with their Allied counterparts generally being better trained and much more experienced. Still, they managed to shoot down three Sea Furies before being destroyed in turn.

As this was going on, the rest of the planes split into their single squadrons, having standing orders to concentrate on carriers above all else. The Japanese put up fierce anti-aircraft fire and knocked down a fair number of torpedo and dive bombers, but the Allies bore in anyway. The ANZACs concentrated Akagi and Junyo, with both Japanese carriers being still fairly close together in spite of their evasive manoeuvres. As was and is usual in battles, it did not go entirely to plan, and mis-identification and misheard orders led to all but two sections of that element attacking Junyo.

The result was obvious, with no less than five torpedoes impacting in that ship's hull and breaking her back. She would eventually be scuttled by a Destroyer with her flightdeck awash.

Akagi on the other hand managed to dodge the torpedoes.

Next on the list was Shinano. The first attack was carried out by torpedo planes from Audacious. Somehow they managed only three hits on what was then the longest carrier in the world, but those three hits still managed to slow her down sufficiently and cause serious flooding that would have sunk her eventually. Exactly why the British torpedo planes showed up so poorly here is undetermined, but most likely the relative inexperience of the aircrew is to blame.

Hiryu seemed to be lucky this round, as she managed to dodge no less than eight torpedoes that came close enough to be a danger.

Her near-sister ship Ibuki, part of the Soryu class and named after a cruiser that had been lost to an American submarine in 1944, was on her first and only cruise. Five torpedoes opened up her starboard side like a used ration can, she began to list, turned turtle and sank with most of her crew on board in less than ten minutes.

The other carriers present, Taiho and Katsuragi received only minor damage in spite of several hits, thanks to their better than usual torpedo protection and being just plain lucky.

When the torpedo planes departed, they had lost twenty-two aircraft but in return sunk two carriers outright and heavily damaged three more, with one being left in sinking condition, although that was not known to British authorities until after the war.

That left the dive-bombers. Being at high altitude, they were left entirely unmolested by the defending Japanese fighters and faced only limited anti-aircraft fire from the escorting cruisers and destroyers. As per British doctrine, their numbers were limited, but their presence would prove to have just as much impact as that of United States Navy SBD Dauntless aircraft had at Midway in another world.

By the time they were in a perfect attack position, the Japanese formation was completely disorganized, with little in the way of defences to stop them. In fact, they received more fire on the way out.

In spite of standing orders, two sections of British Barracudas attacked the few escorting Japanese cruisers, loosing two of their number for no hits in return.

One element attacked Akagi. The carrier suffered only splinter damage, but was reported as 'damaged, afire', either due to the deception methods employed by her captain or because of misidentification. Either way, she would survive the battle, and in fact the war itself, only coming on an end in an American nuclear test in 1952.

Hiryu was attacked in turn by elements from Melbourne and Implacable, suffering an unprecedented fifteen hits and misses near enough to cause damage inside of five minutes. Due to poor damage control and the general chaos caused by this hammering she was soon on fire from bow to stern, eventually succumbing to a catastrophic magazine explosion. The crews of both Allied carriers as well as the crews of their modern descendants debate to this day who delivered the killing blow.

Katsuragi suffered fewer direct hits, but it needed only one 1000-pound Armour-piercing bomb straight to her forward magazines to seal her fate.

The debris from her explosion had not yet stopped falling when she was joined by Taiho. Her armoured deck actually rejected the first three hits, but her defensive efforts were crippled when another bomb impacted right below her bridge, killing everyone present there. Exactly how this happened has never been conclusively proven. A deep-sea expedition conducted to her wreck on behest of the University of Oxford's Faculty of History and ITV revealed nothing on the matter. However most historians and certified experts consider it likely that the deck was tilted at time of impact as she was doing a tight turn to evade her attackers, aided by the bomb being dropped at a non-ideal angle to begin with.

In any event, she was effectively headless, with her rudder stuck at full, she continued a fast starboard turn, only to be set on fire by both another hit and a Barracuda crashing into the hole it's own bomb had made. This odd and incredibly unlikely occurrence has been verified by both fortuitous photographic evidence as well as accounts by the few survivors that had escaped her shattered hull by the time she too was scuttled by a Destroyer.

Long story short, in less than an hour, the Allies had permanently destroyed any notion of the Imperial Japanese Navy as an offensive force. While there were carriers under construction in Japan and while some of those would end up seeing service, the Combined Fleet would never again be capable of seriously threatening Allied or American operations.

For now however, it was their turn.

The Japanese strike could do nothing but listen in as one after another their motherships went off the air, never to return. Being faced with no option but to press on.

At the same time the Japanese cruisers, having been missed by all Allied patrols, split into yet another small force.






tbc


I hope it was worth the wait.


Again, Audacious being the lead ship of her own class is a retCon. This the first part only, never fear.

To be perfectly honest, I finished this a while ago and forgot that I hadn't posted it here yet. Part 2... fell victim to massive computer issues a while back. THose have been resolved, but I didn't feel like re-creating the very detailed battle description I'd written, so it will probably deviate from the usual style a bit.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:57 pm 
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Wow.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 12:11 am 
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Yeah. Of course the details of this battle are partial fantasy, but the Japanese Carriers really were wiped out fairly early on.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 5:17 am 
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Now that was cool :) worth the wait


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 7:54 am 
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Wow is an understatement!

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:21 pm 
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Well worth the wait old chap and very very good I can not wait to read part two.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:56 am 
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Five carriers, a battlecruiser and a destroyer. Not bad for the first part of a battle, although considering the preponderence of British and Commonwealth airpower, it is a result to be expected.

A very impressive write-up that caps off the build-up to this engagement extremely effectively.

Well done.

Regards,

Simon


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 2:21 pm 
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Thank you. It's not over yet, there's still the Japanese counterstrike, those Japanese Cruisers and of course the really fun part, Force Z vs the Japanese batteline.

Especially the counterstrike and cruiser bit will be less detailed because of the aforementioned PC problems....

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:16 am 
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Chapter 385/Part 2

The Japanese strike was doomed the moment the last Allied planes left the two damaged carriers behind. Not because of a preponderance of enemies for them to fight, though the Allied fighter screen was fairly substantial, but rather because most of them didn't have any ships to return to; and the situation would eventually get worse as progressive damage caused by the flooding would slow down Shinano to the point where it was eventually decided that she would be scuttled lest her presence doom the only Fleet carrier left to the Imperial Japanese Navy.

At that point though that was still several hours in the future and the Japanese homed in on where they knew the Allied carriers to be. Here the differences in quality between the Japanese aircrew and their Allied counterparts became apparent as well as the technological disparity. Allied RDF pickets were farther out than what the Japanese could manage which gave the defending Allied fighters far more time to intercept.

But for once the Japanese outnumbered their adversaries. Most of the Allied fighters were away escorting their own strike and while the Sea Furies managed to intercept the strike fairly far out and both sides came off even in the furball with eleven Zeroes downed for thirteen Allied fighters, they failed to make even a dent in the strike. That left the defences of the fleet up to the guns, although at least few bombers had been shot down anyway.

Only a few years earlier that would have meant that at least the initial strike would have been effectively unopposed given the sub-par gunlaying methods of the time. However, this was 1944 and the unstoppable march of technology had not stood still. Not only were the guns aimed with the assistance of the TRADIS system across at least the Commonwealth Navies, but every Allied ship present that day had swapped the 'normal' shells for proximity fused ones. Most of the first production runs had been shipped to the Pacific as fast as the freighters would go.

While nowhere near as accurate as a modern AAM, the combination of those two technologies still represented a huge leap by the standards of the time. What limited the Allied fire was the non-presence of Force Z who would normally be there to reinforce the AA coverage of the carriers.

As it was, the fire put up by the carriers, destroyers and few attendant cruisers was highly accurate but not as voluminous as it could have been. Still, it was a veritable wall and greatly disrupted the formations, downing a small but still noticeable share of the enemy planes, and though actual numbers are uncertain, it is generally believed that about eight or nine planes were destroyed outright and many more damaged to the point where they would have been written off later had they had any carriers to return to. Most of the strike concentrated itself on the carriers, although eleven D4Y 'Judy' divebombers attacked HMS Hood.

There two hits were scored, with several near misses. One bomb destroyed one of the starboard 4 inch guns and started a short-lived ammunition fire, the second one glanced off the deck armour near the A-Turret probably because of the turn the ship was making and in and of itself did little damage before exploding in the water nearby.

Over where the carriers were splitting apart like a pack of rabbits the Japanese strike fared better.

HMCS Bonaventure attracted the attention of several elements of B7A Grace torpedo bombers that had once flown from Akagi. However, they all attacked from the same side, loosing two of their number to AA fire before launching a wildly dispersed pattern. The Canadian carrier managed to dodge five of the six fish that came close, with the sixth one running straight and true. It would have impacted about a third of the way down the hull from the bow, had not of the attending destroyers, HMCS Vancouver not deliberately interposed itself between the fish and her charge. Even so the destroyer was almost missed and lost the first third of the hull to the Japanese weapon, sinking with all hands almost instantly.

Vancouver's heroism is today recognized by a memorial in it's namesake city and a Canadian Type 45/Town Class destroyer of the same name.

Anti-aircraft fire had savaged the Japanese formation, and it showed. Peny-packet attacks made on lone ships, sometimes as few as one or two planes, allowed the Allied carriers to escape with essentially no additional damage after that, with the exception of HMS Formidable which suffered a direct hit on her aft elevator that started a hangar fire. This was eventually extinguished, but the ship was still unable to operate aircraft and would need several weeks in drydock.

This concluded the actual strike portion of this fight, but then something began to happen that would be all to common for the remainder of the war. Having nowhere to go, the Japanese pilots took to crashing their planes into the nearest Allied ship. Caught unaware by this, few managed to avoid their attackers, and yet the Japanese had taken frightful losses at this point. HMS Illustrious was clipped by the wing of a Grace that, already on fire, tried to crash into her island, the destroyer Musketeer was struck by a Judy that likely still had it's bomb because plane and ship alike exploded instantly.

In essence, the Japanese had traded all their remaining carriers for light to medium damage to several allied ships and a single destroyer sunk.

Yet the day was not over. With Force Z away, the surface defence of the carriers lay with HMS Hood and the three cruisers with her. It must be stressed again that there is no conclusive explanation for why Admiral Somerville split his forces, even though that question was asked almost immediately in the days after the battle.

What happened was that seventeen minutes after the last Japanese plane had crashed into the ocean, one of the picket destroyers, HMAS Endurance picked up a 'big' formation of ships. Speculating that it might be the rest of Force Z returning, they requested (and received) permission to investigate, but that was quickly halted when an eagle-eyed lookout spotted a Japanese seaplane. Endurance went about at flank speed, all the while screaming towards the fleet that the Japanese were coming. Obviously this set the cat amongst the pigeons.

The carriers ran as fast as they could away from the battle area, effectively removing themselves from the battle, with their aircraft off somewhere in the wild blue yonder as well as Admiral Somerville temporarily incommunicado after hitting his head on the map table aboard HMS Illustrious and the rest of Force Z was at that moment engaging the Japanese, in what would be the last time fleets fought line against line. Thus advised, Captain Phillips knew that he was effectively alone, even more so when he was forced to send the damaged Penelope on with the carriers.

So Hood and the three undamaged cruisers remaining turned towards the no less than six Japanese cruisers, ranging from the smaller light cruisers, both remaining units, to the bigger Nagara.

One their own, none of these would pose a danger to a single Admiral-Class Battlecruiser if she was handled well, but all together they were deadly. And yet none of the British ships budged and instead they all joined Hood as she turned to unmask her entire main battery. What followed rivalled the battle raging a few dozen miles away in ferocity, though not size.

Both sides suffered terribly, with the British loosing one of the smaller cruisers, HMS Devonshire, when she was hit by two torpedoes out of the only salvo of those weapons fired during that part of the battle, early on. The other cruiser, HMS Mercury, was eventually forced to retreat with damage so heavy that she was declared a constructive total loss after her return to Singapore, with only her anchor remaining as part of the Síngapore War Memorial.

That left Hood on her own. Her longer-ranged guns had already begun to even the odds, with Nagara quickly falling prey to her shells and two more ships being dispatched over the course of the next half hour. That left 'only' another three.

It was then that Captain Phillips would earn his Victoria Cross.

To quote the citation:

'South China Sea, 3rd April 1944, Captain Lesley Phillips, Royal Navy (HM Ship Hood)

On 3rd April 1944, during the ongoing Battle of the South China Sea, HMS Hood was tasked to escort the main carrier force of the Allied fleet. Captain Phillips and the officers and other ranks of Hood carried out this task diligently while under heavy attack by enemy aircraft. Shortly afterwards, a group of six enemy cruisers was spotted approaching their location. As senior officer of the escort, Captain Phillips charged the carriers to exit the area at all possible speed, while he took his own command to confront the enemy in order to buy the Allied carriers valuable time to escape. Hood was hit multiple times, starting several smaller fires. After three quarters of an hour of battle during which Captain Phillips conducted himself with bravery and competence, the ship was hit by a tight group of shells, impacting just above the bridge. Of those present, only Captain Phillips and three others survived, all heavily wounded.

Having suffered grievous wounds, including the loss of a finger and a considerable amount of blood, Captain Phillips refused more than basic medical attention and continued to direct his ship for the remainder of the battle, even after reinforcement in the form of Her Majesty's Ship Exeter arrived, having been sent to reinforce the escort. Only after both vessels had dispatched the remaining enemies did Captain Phillips relinquish command.'

What might have happened had Exeter and her escorts not arrived in the nick of time like the proverbial U.S. Cavalry is one of the more speculated upon moments of the battle, but suffice it to say even a handicapped dreadnought was enough to quickly end things, and enough to save more than one career that day. It also helped raise morale aboard the damaged cruiser after having been forced to leave behind the place where even more history was made.


~**---**~


Force Z in the meantime was ending an age, with every single remaining Japanese dreadnought there for the occasion, including the brand new Nagato on her first operational cruise.

Upon forming into line, both them and the Japanese opened fire around the same time, and once again technology, experience and training told, with the Allies scoring the first hit, a shell fired either from HMS Warspite or the French Richelieu impacting on Fuso. What followed was nothing short of slaughter, and not only because Murray kept the range at a distance that allowed the Allies to be far more accurate than their Japanese counterparts. In less than two hours all five Japanese dreadnoughts had been reduced to burning and/or sinking wrecks. How is this possible?

Modern research suggests several causes. When the official Japanese report on the battle was recovered after the war it spoke only of 'superior enemy forces', however that was merely the version presented to the cabinet. When the actual losses were finally admitted to the Emperor, the Japanese High Command, according to several partially recovered minutes of the meeting, concluded that not only had the level of training severely degraded because the system could not keep up with the pace of losses and new construction; that was something that affected Nagato first of all but was a factor on all ships. Ironically, had the Jaapanese done worse earlier in the war and not been able to at least partially replace their losses in capital ships it would have been much less of a problem. Between shell shortages and the carriers getting absolute priority for fuel it wasn't that surprising. The same minutes also suggest that what ammunition there was at least partially fitted with faulty fuses, a possibility known to the Japanese who were forced to use them anyways because they had nothing else on hand, and in fact all the Allied ships later had several duds removed from their hulls. One of those had come to rest inside Warspite's forward shell magazine, forcing the ship to fight the rest of the battle that way. Long story short, the Allies slaughtered their Japanese counterparts at every turn, to the extent that the Captain of the Richelieu refused the Croix de Guerre when it was suggested to him for his part of the battle, saying that a child could have won that day. While that is a simplistic view of things, it is certainly understandable coming from those that were there.

In any event, it was the last time one dreadnought fired at another in anger. None of the ships under construction in Japan at the time, including the first, unnamed A-150-Class ship, were ever completed.

~**---**~

After this, the remnants of the Japanese fleet withdrew towards Formosa. It was a sad sight indeed for anyone who happened to be looking. Of the fleet that had so proudly set sail, only one of the carriers, none of the dreadnoughts and a handful of the cruisers returned, all overloaded to the gills with wounded with thousands more having died that day. Having ceded the field to the Allies, the Japanese could not spend much time picking up more.

The Allies on the other hand did so, or at least tried, as a frightening number of them rather killed themselves than be captured, and eventually Admiral Somerville withdrew his fleet, abandoning the rest of them to their fate, something that would haunt him for the rest of his life, but was a reasonable thing to do at the time as he couldn't know that no Japanese submarine was closer than Manila harbour.

For the Japanese the aftermath was horrible. They had gambled everything and lost in the worst way imaginable. The Japanese high command investigated and it took them three months before they admitted the full scale of the defeat to the Emperor, while the general public didn't find that out until after the war. Had Nagumo not died aboard his flagship then he surely would have given the final apology to the Emperor. As it was, the Captain of Akagi offered to do so, but this was denied as he had merely been following orders and managed to bring his ship back in spite of the odds.

For their Allied counterparts the battle was a cause for jubilation. Negligible losses had been taken in return for effectively destroying the Imperial Japanese Navy, and by the time the triumphant carriers returned to Singapore, the true scale of their victory had filtered through to the general public and an appropriate response was mounted by the city. Jubilation reigned across the Allied nations, but it was something special for the British Empire. More than any other the British define themselves through and with their Navy, UK and Imperial subjects of the crown alike even then, so when Prime Minister Churchill proclaimed victory in 'the greatest seafight since the days of the great Horatio Nelson' the celebrations were massive. To illustrate the appreciation the Empire had for it's fleet, when HM Queen Elizabeth II took formally took the throne later that year, in the same speech where she announced a coronation 'after hostilities are successfully concluded', she also took special care to thank the men of the Allied Pacific Fleet for their service in the South China sea in addition to the rest of the armed services.

Patriotic fervour aside, the battle had a big impact on the war, and on the strategic situation after the war. As it has already been indicated, the Japanese Navy was finished as an offensive force, and for the remainder of the war they were limited to local defence, not having the strength for anything more, which is why the Allied landings on Formosa and later Okinawa were effectively unopposed, at least at sea.

By far the biggest impact was felt by the Americans. From what is known in the European bloc, the American People's Navy looked at the results with equal parts envy and fear. They envied especially the British their advanced aircraft carriers and planes and feared the prospect of having to fight them ship to ship on the open sea. Their own performance in the war so far had not been up to the heritage of the United States Navy, even though they had managed to deflect the Japanese push out of the mandates and re-taken Wake and Midway, and were gearing up for a second attack on Guam. For the better part of three years they had traded ineffectual blows with the Japanese while Allies, with the supposedly smaller and worse equipped Royal Navy in the lead, had systematically demolished their adversaries at every turn. They were aware that the situation was more complicated than that and that the British had taken their fair share of blows over the years, but it was clear that the Japanese had gotten the worse of it. In American eyes the British had gone from an underfunded and technologically outmoded fleet on the decline and with poor doctrine back to where they had been in 1914, a massive fleet lavished with funds, at the forefront of technology as well as doctrine and barely a peer competitor now that one of the two had been destroyed at sea with seemingly little effort. No one seems to have said it officially, but various reports indicate that in several offices to comparison to the German High Seas Fleet was made.

Immediate steps were taken to redress at least some of this. With the economy in the state it was in even with war production, matching the Royal Navy in numbers wasn't possible, so instead the American leadership took steps to finally reform APN tactical doctrine. To do this they reactivated a host of mid-level and lower senior officers that had been forcibly retired after the civil war due to political reasons, among them the later head of the APN Naval Tactics Directorate, and tasked them with figuring out a way with which the APN could stand up to the Royal Navy. The task was a long and hard, and discussing the shift in doctrine is something for another time and place, but the current mix between carriers, submarines and long-range naval bombers has it's origins in the discussions of those days.

For the British the South China Sea validated their tactical and technological concepts in the biggest way possible. Aggressive carrier tactics carried out with top of the line aircraft had yielded impressive results and had cemented the position of the Royal Navy in the world for the next century as well as the position of the aircraft carrier as the queen of the seas. All to the point where the suggestion that the aircraft carrier may have become outmoded by nuclear-tipped anti-ship missiles toppled Harold Wilson's Government in the 1960s. The confident stance with which the Royal Navy now conducts operations across the globe has it's foundations in the South China Sea and while the war was far from over, it certainly was decided during that day.



tbc

Anyone still reading? I had this written and ready to post, but then a software bug/glitch or whatever ate everything of this but the first third. It took me months to even look at this again. The fight between the lines isn't very detailed because it was awfully one sided. None of my ships took more than maybe 10% damage during that battle!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:57 am 
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Certainly still reading this and liking it to boot. A very clear victory with long term consequences. Once the Jap fleet is gone, then their war is essentially done. One sided battles do crop up, be it in fiction or fact, and thus the comparison with Trafalgar works well here; it reminds me of a Jutland simulation I played where the HSF was very, very badly dealt with.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:45 am 
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still here.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:47 pm 
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BZ, but my god what a slaughter. Have been enjoying this series and your other writings both here and over on the other board immensely so thank you.

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