Saturday, 25 June 2022

Off the Bahamas, June 4th 1742 - Scenario for Kiss Me Hardy & To Covet Glory

William Laird Clowes in his History of the Royal Navy has the following account of an interesting little action between the British 6th Rate, HMS Rose and four Spanish ships in company off the Bahamas in 1742 during the War of Jenkins' Ear.

‘On June 4th, 1742, among the Bahamas, Captain Thomas Frankland, of the Rose, fell in with, and chased, four ships, which showed British colours. He chased under the same, and, overhauling them, fired a gun. The chase then hoisted the Spanish flag, and fought him furiously, using all sorts of missiles, from broadsides of shot to poisoned arrows. Frankland, however, held his fire for the fourth ship, a snow, which seemed the strongest, giving the others only a few guns as they chanced to bear. The first three sheered off badly hulled.

"I then endeavoured," says Frankland, "to lay the snow aboard, which she shunned with the utmost caution, maintaining a warm fire till I had torn her almost to rags, the commander having determined rather to sink than strike, for reasons you'll hereafter lie sensible of: but in about four hours the people, in opposition to the captain, hauled down the colours."

The prize mounted ten carriage' guns, as many swivels, and had a crew of over eighty men.

“The captain is Juan de Leon Fandino. . . . He is the man that commanded the guard of coast out of the Havana that took Jenkins when his ears were cut oft'. . . . Not but such a desperado with his crew of Indians, Mulattoes and Negroes could have acted as he did, for we were at least two hours within pistol shot of him keeping a constant fire.” . . . '

HMS Shoreham, a 350 ton 5th rate built in 1693, would be a typical example of the look of the ships operated by the Royal Navy in the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Chris Stoesen is a name that should be familiar to enthusiasts for Too Fat Lardy rule sets and Kiss Me Hardy (KMH) in particular having written scenarios for rules such as Sharp Practice, Chain of Command and KMH with his rule additions for ships under the rate entitled To Covet Glory (TCG), for which I have featured posts here on JJ's where we have played several games using TCG alongside KMH for which they work seamlessly.

British operations in the Caribbean during the War of Jenkins' Ear

Thus it was very interesting to be invited by Chris to playtest some scenarios for his latest piece of work, namely a scenario and campaign book for both KMH/TCG and Sharp Practice covering the actions and forces involved in the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkin's Ear, 1739 -1748, that would merge into the wider conflict of the War of Austrian Succession that broke out in 1742, with much of the former action taking place in the Caribbean and off the southern coast of North America.

Of course those familiar with my own collection of models will know I have focussed on a much later period, namely the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic War of 1793 -1815 but with a simple adapting of the scenario outline to the later war together with the use of the original set ups and ship statistics, the transition from 1742 to 1796 was relatively painless, envisaging as it does a Franco-Spanish collection of vessels as opposed to the original solely Spanish flotilla, as outlined above by Clowes in his history.

So with a scenario briefing from Chris, I invited fellow DWG friends and 'all things KMH' enthusiasts, David and Bob to join me to playtest 'Off the Bahamas' with me setting up the table in readiness for our game as seen below.

My original table plan, with the Franco-Spanish flotilla in line ahead and HMS Rose's final position to be determined for the start of our game. As it turned out, she would indeed arrive in a similar position, starting in area D6 on the map below.

As part of the scenario brief I had also to design a table plan that would allow for any hidden shoals and sandbars encountered in the waters off the Bahamas in the area this little action takes place in. 

This layout involves rolling for the depth and size of any likely underwater obstacle that could potentially damage any unwary vessel, particularly one barrelling along under full sail and not taking the precaution to slow down and sound out the prevailing depth.

One additional complication of sailing amid shoals is the restriction I placed on opening fire with the great guns, with the reports likely to drown out the cries from the leadsman calling out the marks, so no firing while sounding  - oh dear, how sad, never mind!

This table plan like the shifting sands will vary from game to game depending on the die rolls outlined by Chris in the scenario notes, and below is what I came up with, and all adds to the replay value of this little action.

My table plan for our game - The set up instructions in Chris' notes will see a different table each time this scenario is played, and I came up with a simple 2d6 test for encountering shoals by any vessel in a given area, with moderations to the die roll if sounding, and with Chris providing a table of potential outcomes should a vessel have an encounter of the 'close kind'. The die rolls produced open water in two thirds of our table, but any worthy umpire should keep that information from the players just informing them that an area of the table is suspicious or that the leadsman can't find the bottom and letting them decide if they continue sounding or not.

Once David and Bob had arrived I was able then to brief them on the set up and we rolled for commands with David opting to take the role of the infamous Captain or should that be Commodore Juan de Leon Fandino aboard his flagship, the 10-gun Snow, Saint Jean Baptiste, here represented by one of my French brigs.

The dastardly Commodore Juan de Leon Fandino,
played by David

The Franco-Spanish flotilla was complete with the addition of one 14-gun Spanish Schooner (San Vicente), one 8-gun French Schooner (Nouveau Vin) and the little Spanish 8-gun Sloop or Cutter (Dolor de Estomago).

The Franco-Spanish flotilla with, from left to right, San Vicente 14-guns, Saint Jean Baptiste 10-guns, Dolor de Estamago 8-guns, and the French 8-gun Schooner, Nouveau Vin. Originally David had his ships organised into tidy parallel two ship columns, and then we rolled for being 'off station' and this is what he ended up with! The ships are set up in square B2 an area containing mid size reefs, so he would opt to sound in the initial stages of our game.

Thus Bob took command of His Majesty's frigate Rose of 24-guns, patrolling the waters off the Bahamas, looking for prizes and free from his commodore's eye, just as the lookout yelled,

"Sail Ho!"

HMS Rose is classed as a 6th rate of 24-guns with 160 crew, mounting a powerful armament for her size of twenty 6-pdr long guns, four 4-pdrs and twelve swivels, commanded by Captain Thomas Frankland.

Fandino's nemesis, Captain Thomas Frankland RN
played by Bob.

Both sides were uncertain of the identity of the other when first spotted, and indeed in the historical encounter, Fandino, ran up British colours as an attempted ruse, hoping to avoid any confrontation as he slipped through British waters carrying important supplies and dispatches, prior to a planned invasion of British possessions in the area by the forces of Spain.

HMS Rose turns on to an intercepting heading as her lookouts strain their eyes to determine the identities and types of strangers.

To simulate the uncertainty of the strange ships, both sides used the 'False Colours' rules in TCG that allows both sides to test to identify each time their move chit is drawn from the bag, but it was not until turn 5 that the first spotting test produced a success with the Spanish sloop Dolor de Estamago, successfully identifying Rose as a British frigate and passing the message on to her comrades as 'Enemy in Sight' fluttered up in a series of coloured bunting as observed from Rose, and then seemingly acknowledged by similar but different bunting raised by the other three vessels, now identified as a snow and two schooners.

As the range closed between the two groups, both sides attempted to spot the other's true identity with the small Spanish sloop gaining the first clue as to the identity of the stranger on the western horizon.

At long range the spotting checks required a 12 on 2d6 to successfully spot and it was not until turn 8 that Rose managed to roll a score of 10 when the range had dropped considerably to allow the British commander to confirm his suspicion that the four vessels were indeed enemy and order the main 6 pounders run out in response.

It's turn eight  and the Rose confirms the identity of the strange ships ahead. Enemy in sight, run out the guns!

Rose was seemingly in a good position to intercept but the easterly wind was causing a slight problem, allowing the Franco-Spanish to take advantage of a consistent aft wind, right under their coat-tails but somewhat struggling to close up their formation in readiness for any likely attack; whilst the British ship was contending with a bow wind that threatened to interfere with Captain Frankland's interception course as the reduction by the result of one die roll to the basic speed of 7cms suffered from two rolls of 6's on successive die rolls and saw the frigate creep forward at just 1cm per turn instead.

It's turn 8 and Saint Jean Baptiste and the schooner Nouveau Vin open fire on the fast approaching Rose which has just turned her bow to starboard to quarter the wind.

Frankland gave the order to bring the ship to starboard, immediately seeing the main course fill with a quartering wind and significantly close the range to the two leading enemy ships, Saint Jean Baptiste and the schooner following in her wake, the Nouveau Vin.

Now at extreme range the two French ships ran out their guns and opened fire at the oncoming enemy's rigging, taking advantage of their first broadsides and propensity to find their mark among the opposition's sticks.

The French fire at the British rigging was particularly accurate and effective, reducing the British ship from a basic speed of 7cm to 5cm in a few moves of extreme and long range shooting.

With the British frigate closing fast, Fandino, signalled San Vincente and Dolor de Estomago to act independently and make their escape as he kept the Nouveau Vin in close company ready to resist the attack of the British ship. (Note order markers now placed next to the respective models, which will now activate on their respective chits when drawn)

The change of heading and rapid approach of the Rose meant the range has closed quite quickly, reducing the effects of French fire blazing away at her rigging, already badly shot up, whilst threatening to proverbially, and in reality, place the cat among the pigeons, should the more powerful British ship get in among the enemy flotilla.

Fandino acted fast by keeping the Nouveau Vin in close company with the Saint Jean Baptiste to attempt to resist the British attack and thus allow two, and possibly three, of his brood to escape whilst he kept the enemy fully occupied.

The Dolor de Estomago eight 4pdr guns and twelve swivels acting independently with an orders chit placed. There are four options of orders in KMH/TCG, straight ahead, turn starboard or larboard and tack. Once declared the vessel is committed to follow them in spite of what the enemy may or may not have ordered themselves, thus adding a simple but highly effective way of avoiding order writing.

Thus the San Vincente and Dolor de Estomago were signalled to act independently and set their course to escape as their protection group braced themselves for impact.

The cat well and truly among the pigeons, as Rose turns in among the enemy, having been forced to cross the bows and tack further downwind to make sure a bow wind would not impede closing, before delivering broadsides from both batteries. 

The change of course had another effect in that it took Rose rapidly further ahead of the enemy forcing a tack back to close in on the enemy's larboard side before issuing close range broadsides that pummelled the Saint Jean and Dolor de Estomago, before Rose looked to cross the stern of the Nouveau Vin.

The Franco-Spanish return the salute as battle is well and truly joined

The firing became up close and personal as the Nouveau Vin managed to manoeuvre her stern away from a short range rake, only for the Rose to come down the starboard side of her and the Saint Jean to bring the enemy flagship close with a grapple as the Nouveau threw the helm over to pass to larboard of the two locked ships as boarding parties clashed on the bulwarks.

The resulting boarding was over almost as soon as it began with the damage and losses caused by the British storming on to the Frenchman's deck, added to that already suffered, resulting in a subsequent failed strike test.

Thus with her wheel shot away, but with a prize crew aboard, the Saint Jean was left to defend herself if necessary, whilst Rose cut her lines and turned to deal with the battered Nouveau Vin.

It's turn 21 and the blue and white range stick to left indicates the escape line for the allies, but the Saint Jean Baptiste, nearest to it has struck and is under a British prize crew, whilst the Rose has now delivered a short range stern rake on the schooner Nouveau Vin and she has a 'Strike Test' marker near her bow and will strike later. Meanwhile the two Spanish ships are desperately trying to slip past and make their escape.

The Nouveau Vin was only centimetres away from crossing the escape line as the Rose drew across her stern and opened fire with a devastating stern rake causing the second French ship to immediately haul down her colours as the Spanish allies attempted to slip past while the Rose was otherwise engaged.

Rose grapples the Dolor de Estomago and despite a doughty resistance, with swivel gun fire at point-blank range from the Spanish sloop, the fight is over in just one round, as British marines occupy the deck, to find a wreck barely afloat after the earlier punishment dished out. Tethered and struck markers record the table-top action.

However Frankland's blood was well and truly up and he was having none of it as the Rose bore down on the little sloop Dolor de Estomago, still defiantly flying her colours despite the damage that had reduced her starboard battery to just half of the eight 4-pdr guns she had started with, seeing the Spaniard open up with his remaining twelve swivel guns as the British sixth rate closed in remorselessly and the grappling hooks took hold.

Again the boarding action that followed was brutally swift as the little Spanish sloop struck immediately following the loss of her bulwarks to the British boarding party, leaving the little ship just one hull box away from slipping beneath the waves.

With struck enemy ships around her, the Rose takes possession of her third prize, whilst the Spanish Schooner, San Vicente, makes good her escape to deliver the news of the fate of her consorts.

Captain Frankland had outdone his historical predecessor, capturing the flagship and two other enemy ships, all be it with one, the tiny Spanish sloop, barely afloat and unlikely to survive the day.

HMS Rose shows her battle scars with thirty-eight hits of damage to her hull, seven minor speed boxes lost indicating the damage to her rigging reducing her to a basic speed of 5cm, and with both broadsides having fired and with the larboard battery down to just over half of her original 6-pdr guns

The scenario lasted twenty-one turns of play and at one stage, with the Franco-Spanish so close to escaping off the table, looked like they might well get away with a victory, until the dramatic change of heading by the Rose, brought the action to its last ditch finale with Bob snatching victory from the jaws of defeat right at the death.

Fandino's flagship Saint Jean Baptiste, shows the fight she put up defending her consorts, with thirty-two hits taken on her fifty point hull, her wheel shot away and with just under half her broadside and all her swivels demolished on the starboard side prior to her striking her colours.

The fight was as feisty as that described by Frankland in his encounter back in 1742 and the damage dished out to all the ships involved bears this out with only the Spanish schooner San Vicente escaping with relatively light damage.

We all agreed that with so many random set up variations this scenario has a lot of replay value, with one game likely very different to another depending on how many shoals and reefs may be encountered, slowing progress for one or both forces, together with where the respective forces set up at the start.

David commanding the Franco-Spanish always felt he had an opportunity to win it and Bob commented that any additional loss in speed getting across to intercept could well have cost him the game.

Thank you to both Bob and David for producing a highly entertaining day's play and to Chris for coming up with a very interesting and fun scenario.

Next up: As well as a few other small ship actions I am planning to play and report about here on JJ's, I will also be showcasing the work going on in JJ's shipyard as another British squadron rolls down the slips for a foreign navy, this time for Jack which will include Nelson's famous flagship festooned in 'England Expects' bunting - more anon. JJ

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