Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Hunters: U-69 - Second & Third Patrols: December 1940 & February 1941

U-69's second Patrol probably looked a lot like this,
sitting around waiting to run into some action.
That never really came.
My second actual play report of The Hunters: 
German U-Boats at War 1939-1943.  You can find the first one here.  Without further ado let's dive right in.

The Second Patrol

U-69's second patrol was by and large uneventful with no large ships sunk.  The U-Boat had been assigned the task of dropping off an Abwehr (German Intelligence for those of you not in the know) agent off the shore of Ireland.  Before continuing with their primary mission of sinking Allied shipping around the British Isles.  Other than having to crash dive to avoid an anti-submarine plane on their first attempt to put the agent ashore.  The mission was largely a success.  The actual sinking of ships left something to be desired consisting of two small freighters.  The Bassano weighing in at 4800 tons and the destroyer escorted Soloy weighing in at 4400 tons.  U-69 sank the Bassano at close range using the boat's deck-gun.  While the Soloy was sunk in a submerged night-time approach, using all four of the forward torpedoes.  (Both Kapitan-leutnant Fechner and myself the player have a policy of not returning to port with Torpedoes, which we haven't been successful in upholding due to a lack of targets).  The Soloy's escort was thrown into disarray after their charge was sunk.  Allowing U-69 to slip away undetected.  The boat then docked back in Brest for refitting. A total of 9200 tons sunk on its second patrol, bringing its overall total up to 20,000 tons.  Just two patrols and Kommandant Fechner is a fifth of the way towards earning himself a Knight's Cross.

February 1941 - Third Patrol

Once U-69's refitting was finished in February the boat once again departed from Brest.  Returning to its favoured hunting grounds of the British Isles.  The voyage from the Bay of Biscay to the North Channel was safe and uneventful.  The action started when the watch spotted a convoy coming right towards the boat, not that far out from Belfast!  Kapitan-leutant Fechner quickly gave the order to dive to avoid detection in broad daylight.  Then ordered a submerged approach towards the convoy.  They came upon two small freighters the Thorstrand at 3000 tons, and the Dalcroy at 4600 tons.  There was also the large freighter Bronte at 5300 tons and the tanker Casanare weighing 5400 tons.  Ignoring the two small freighters, Fechner gave the order to fire on the larger Bronte and the tanker Casanare.  Two torpedoes from the forward tubes apiece.  Both salvos hit their marks, doing just enough damage to sink the two ships.  The escorts taken completely by surprise were unable to locate U-69.

The aftermath of U-69's first attack on the convoy.
Kapit√§nleutnant Fechner gave the order to continue following the convoy.  Who knew if they'd have another opportunity to use their torpedoes for the rest of the patrol.  He had prey within his sights and he intended to sink as much of the convoy as he could.  Approaching the British ships from another direction he ordered the boat to surface within their midst.  Once again the officers scrambled out the hatch of U-69 and into the conning tower.  Examining their surroundings through their binoculars, scanning for the right target.  Behind them was small freighter The Royal Sceptre weighing 4800 tons.  To their bow there were another two small freighters the Scoresby at 3800 tons and the Tweed at 2700 tons.  The juiciest prize however was the tanker Havbor weighing in at 7600 tons.  To date the largest ship that U-69 had ever encountered.  Fechner made his decision in no time at all, the forward torpedoes would all be fired at the Havbor.  He wanted to sink that tanker no matter what!  Meanwhile the aft torpedo would be fired at the Royal Sceptre.  Why settle for sinking one ship when he had an opportunity to sink two!  They hit Havbor no problem (with such a large target how could they miss?) but they didn't sink her.  She was smoking, damaged and on fire in some places but she was still mobile, if somewhat slowed.  The aft torpedo failed to make contact with the Royal Sceptre. A disappointment, but Kapitanleutnant Fechner shrugged it off.  The Sceptre was small potatoes it was the Havbor he wanted!

Miraculously U-69 managed to remain undetected by the convoy's destroyer escort.  They continued to follow the limping Havbor and surfaced later that same night.  Coming up in front of the tanker and firing another torpedo at close range!  It was the straw that broke the camel's back as the Havbor went up in flames and began to sink below the surface.  Of course there were consequences to U-69's finishing blow on the Havbor as for the first time in the boat's illustrious career.  They were detected by escorting destroyers!  While the depth charge barrage proved to be short, for the crew it seemed like an eternity.  Before they were able to escape the destroyers.  At which point Fechner called off pursuit of the convoy, they were down to their last four torpedoes.  They'd already used ten on this one convoy and who knew if they'd run into another.  The escort had already detected them and might do it again.  Best to use the better part of valour, Fechner was a daring commander, but he wasn't suicidal!

Alarm! Enemy Aircraft!

A B-24 attacks U-69, ignore the US markings the one that
attacked U-69 was most definitely a RAF plane.
The crew of U-69 quickly found their next target in the form of the small freighter Thirlby.  Weighing in at 4900, they came upon her in broad daylight.  Kapitanleutnant ordered the deck-gun to fire on her at close range, their first volley of shells going wide.  Their second volley connected with the freighter, though not doing enough damage to the ship to sink her.  Fechner ordered the deck-gun's crew to reload for a finishing salvo, when out of nowhere there came the droning of airplane propellers!  There was no time to crash dive!  U-69's Kommandant yelled at his Second Watch Officer to get the Flak crew into position.  It was a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his days.  The plane dropped it's cargo of bombs, Fechner ducked his head behind the conning tower!  Seawater sprayed up from where the payload landed and then was a loud sound like thunder at close range!  Fechner was just turning to order the Flak-gun to fire on the aircraft.  When he saw them blow to pieces, men went flying into the sea!  Some barely recognizable as the shrapnel turned them into hamburger!  

The Kommandant screamed "Everyone below deck, move it, dive, dive!" The Second Watch Officer protested "We have wounded!"
"They're dead!  If you don't want to join them, get below deck now!" retorted Fechner as he pushed his protesting subordinate towards the hatch.  The pair of them jumped down, there was no time for climbing.  Fechner barely fastened the hatch behind him and ordered the helmsman to dive as fast as he could.  He quickly checked himself for wounds, there was some distance between himself and the Flak-gun when the bomb dropped.  He had to be sure though, he sighed in relief when he found himself unharmed.  Then came the guilt.  The whole thing stank of cowardice, eight (in game terms it was more like ten) of his men were dead.  And what had he done?  He'd run with his tail between his legs without even giving them a proper burial at sea.  Without a sunken freighter to offer their souls as a justification for their deaths.  He could feel the Second Watch Officer's eyes on him.  The lower-ranked man thought Fechner a coward and Fechner knew he was right.

When they resurfaced to check the damage the Lead Engineer told Fechner that the Flak-gun was inoperable and unrepairable.  Something that Fechner could tell just by looking.  He should have aborted the mission then and there without a Flak-gun they were sitting ducks.  Waiting to be ambushed by the next Allied plane that came along.  He couldn't make peace with himself though.  He couldn't go home without sinking another ship to make up for the Flak-crew's deaths.  He gave some speech about honouring their deaths as justification to his crew.  The words felt as hollow to him as they probably did to the crew, but they followed his orders regardless.  The search for new targets proved fruitless, he only found himself scanning the skies whenever he came above deck.  More frightened of another plane than he was of British Destroyers.  U-69 pulled back into Brest, based on the numbers it was a victory to the men it was a sobering defeat.  One that they smoked their first after-patrol cigarette and drank their beer to forget.  In another two months the boat would be refitted and they would have to go back on patrol.

The Wall of the Fallen

I decided to do a little collection of ships sunk by U-69 this game.  (Where I could find photographs). The Soloy was especially difficult to track down a photo of.
The Norwegian M/S
Soloy after the Bassano
in December 1940.

The British SS Bassano sunk by
U-69 in December of 1940.
The British Tanker SS Casanare sunk
by U-69 in February of 1941. 


The Norwegian Tanker M/S Havbor
part of the same convoy as the Casanare
and the Bronte.  Sunk the following night.

The British SS Bronte sunk by U-69
the same night as the Casanare.


U-69's second patrol was largely straightforward with nothing incredibly exciting happening in retrospect.  (Don't get me wrong I was still sweating bullets whenever I rolled a Escort's detection roll or to see if a torpedo hit).  Things really got really exciting on the third patrol though.  I rolled a convoy result straight off the bat and a particularly juicy one at that.  Starting off with the a Large Freighter and a Tanker.  Then another Tanker when I decided to continue following the convoy!  (I like to think of it as making up for failing to sink the Lincoln Ellsworth last session).  I'm honestly amazed that my luck has held out for this long, usually when I play Roleplaying or any other type of game.  I get such lousy rolls, not with the Hunters though, it's been nothing but success after success.  (Except when for a few rolls to hit or to determine duds here or there).  The first taste of U-69's mortality came when I was detected by the Havbor's escort after sinking it.  I really thought it was game over then.
Roughly the emotional breakdown I had when U-69 was
nearly sunk by depth-charging and later that plane.

It was even worse when we were attacked while trying to sink the Thirlby.  The whole time I was hoping against hope that I wouldn't roll Kommandant when damage indicated a crew hit.  The game would have automatically ended if that were the case.  I was so glad when it turned out to be just generic crew.  (I had three more to spare).  Unlike Kapitan-Leutnant Fechner who appears to be incredibly haunted by the deaths of his men.  I've mentioned it before but I really love how The Hunters forces you to mentally make up a narrative as you play it.  The damage to the Flak-gun and the KIA Crew were just perfect.  You couldn't have written a better story.  So now the boat has made port in Brest safely (for the most part) for the third time in its career.  With a total of 38,300 tonnage sunk to its name, U-69 has been very prolific in its short time at sea.  Since this was the third patrol the Crew also gets promoted to Veteran status.  Which makes sense since they've engaged two convoys, sunk a number of ships, escaped depth charging and an air attack on their boat.  They're no longer the fresh-faced boys that left on their first patrol five months ago.  They're the bearded Wolves of the depths that Royal Navy sailors live in fear of!  

So there's my actual-play report of my second and third sessions of The Hunters.  So far the game has been very exciting and a lot of fun.  I definitely see this having a lot of replay value as you never really know what's going to happen next.  Until next time be sure to +1, comment and follow this blog.  As always may the dice be ever in your favour and have a nice day.

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