Hunt for the Lonely Queen


Background - the sting

Those of you who came to Salute in 2000 will hopefully have seen, if not played, our participation game 'Hunt for the Lonely Queen'.

Our game shows the perils that would have been faced by the Mosquito aircrew of 618 Squadron. At low level they negotiate the narrow, high sided fjords dodging the flak defences of Tirpitz and her protecting ships intent on releasing their bombs against the might of the Pocket Battleship Tirpitz: the 'Lonely Queen'.

In the intervening time there have been several requests for the rules and so we thought you might like to know a little about the games inception as well as getting the rules. I wouldn't expect you to go to the effort that we did to create a 16' game, but in fact, as we found through play testing you can manage quite well at home on an 6' table using 1/3000 ships and as small an aircraft scale as you can find.

For some years I've been part of a small group of Warlords who have regularly put on games at shows in the south and prior to Salute 2000 all of those games had been demonstrations, mainly in 20mm scale.

As you all know by now the year 2000 didn't just mark a good excuse for a bigger New Year's party but also saw the move from Kensington to Olympia. To mark this change we felt that something a little different was in order for our new game and so "Tirpitz" was born.

In fact that's jumping an initial stage. The initial thoughts were based around the Dambuster's attacks. I had images in my mind of those lovely three-dimensional models of the dams that you see the bomber crews pouring over in the film and thought that these could be quite stunning if done well.


Background - reality

The threat posed by the existence of the Tirpitz was such that large portions of the British Home Fleet were tied up defending the northern convoys at a time when they were needed in other theatres and so it was vital that she be eliminated.

Hidden deep within the fjords, options were limited. Attacks from the air were unlikely to be successful. Aircraft would have to overcome the difficult terrain, multitude of air defences, smoke screens and still carry enough weaponry to penetrate her thick armour. Torpedoes could not be used as anti torpedo nets formed an efficient defence. Unless Tirpitz could be caught on the open sea any form of naval attack was inappropriate. That is until the appearance of midget submarines, each with two 1-ton explosive charges strapped to the sides which could be jettisoned beneath the target on a time-delay fuse. Three such X-Craft were detailed to attack in September 1942 and after having been towed across the North Sea by more conventional submarines they penetrated the depths of the fjord up to the various defensive anti-submarine and torpedo nets. Members of the crew using diving gear then cut paths through the nets allowing the X-Craft to reach their target. Four charges were successfully laid causing severe damage to Tirpitz's main turbines and fire control. A testament to the strength of Tirpitz was that she was only put out of action for six months.

This action was immortalised in the film "Above us, the waves".

With the incomplete success of the X-Craft attack and bombing still not a feasible option, it was decided to attack the only repair facilities capable of dealing with a vessel as large as the Tirpitz. This resulted in the 1943 Commando raid on the dry dock at St. Nazaire depicted in the films 'Gift Horse' and 'Attack on the iron coast'. With the dry dock severely damaged Tirpitz could not dare leave the protection of the fjords in case she incurred damage in an engagement.

The threat, however, had still not been eliminated and in April 1944, 42 Fairy Barracuda torpedo-bombers and 80 American built Grumman Wildcat and Hellcat fighters of the Fleet Air Arm took off from the carriers Victorious and Formidable to attack Tirpitz at her anchorage. Two waves of aircraft dropped a mixture of ten 1,600lb armour-piercing bombs, sixty-six 500lb semi armour-piercing bombs numerous high explosive bombs and even some anti-submarine bombs. Having successfully taken the ship and her defences by surprise with such a daring low level attack only three aircraft were lost and Tirpitz took fifteen hits putting her out of action for a further three months.

Four more attacks by the Fleet Air Arm took place in July and August of 1944 with limited success and it was finally the invention of the 12,000lb armour piercing 'Tallboy' Bomb by Barnes Wallis to solve the problem of the Tirpitz. Tallboy was a high tensile steel aerodynamic bomb which would be dropped from 20,000 ft.

Streamlined and equipped with angled fins that would produce a rapid spin the bomb could penetrate up to 16 ft of reinforced concrete, causing an 80 ft crater, 100ft across. On 11th September, 1944 28 RAF Lancasters attacked with 20 Tallboys causing one direct hit and two near misses leaving her engines severely damaged.

By now Admiral Doenitz, Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, knew that she was finished as a warship and he transferred her to the harbour at Tromso fjord. The intention was to dredge the harbour to create a shelf on which Tirpitz could rest eliminating any risk of capsizing and here she would remain as a static costal defense battery. The British were unaware of the extent of the damage caused by the earlier raid and so another was quickly organised. The shelf was not created by the time the RAF returned and more direct hits with 'Tallboy' created a magazine explosion causing Tirpitz to capsize and only 85 of the 1,000 crew managed to escape. With the loss of Tirpitz, Germany's naval war in northern waters was ended.

Background - the hunter

Early in WWII, de Havilland turned their woodworking skills to the development of a two engined bomber with such a turn of speed that it would need no defensive armament. So in 1940 the first 'Mossie', as they were affectionately known, flew. Primarily constructed out of plywood with a balsa core, early versions were not suited to tropical climates as the 'screwed-and-glued' construction often warped when exposed to the high temperatures, humidity and rain as well as causing the glue to dissolve! The Mosquito's future was to be far more successful than such a start would suggest.

By the war's end almost 8,000 had been built in Britain, Canada and Australia across a number of different roles. It became the standard night fighter, replacing the slower Beaufighter, and was not matched in this role by the Germans until the development of the night fighter version of the Me 262 jet. The bomber version could carry the same bomb load as a B17 flying fortress and equipped the Pathfinder Force, marking targets for the heavy aircraft of Bomber Command. The fighter version shot down 481 V-1 flying bombs, could escort British bombers over Germany as well as fly deep penetration missions against targets throughout Europe with rockets and bombs. An anti-tank variation was built by replacing the four 20mm cannon with a 57mm Molins cannon which fired 6lb shells, two .303 machine guns were retained and additional armour installed. Unfortunately the 57mm cannon became obsolete for use against tanks and these aircraft were transferred to Coastal Command to attack coastal traffic and U-Boats.

They were used as high-speed transports with important items and even passengers being carried in the bomb bay. Long range photo-reconnaissance versions supplemented the similar Spitfire force and there was even a highly modified version for use in carrier operations although this was abandoned with the war's end.

Background - the prey

The Tirpitz was the second, and last of the Bismarck class of German battleships but unlike her famed sister whose career was remarkably full and yet so short, Tirpitz was to suffer perhaps the strangest life of any capital ship in the Second World War.

Launched in 1939 she was larger, faster and more powerful than any British or American vessel afloat. Her 15-inch main guns were capable of penetrating 13 inches of armour plate from a distance of 22 miles and alongside Bismarck, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau she was a most serious threat to allied shipping in the north Atlantic.

It was, however, the destruction of the Bismarck by the British Navy in May 1941, a few months prior to Tirpitz's sea trials that were to seal her fate. Adolf Hitler was devastated at the loss of the Bismarck and decreed that no German warship could put to sea without his personal consent. Tirpitz was sent to the relative safety of the Norwegian fjords to act as a threat to the British - Russian supply lanes and it was in these fjords that she would spend the majority of her life dodging from one isolated anchorage to another. It was for this reason that the Norwegians named her 'The Lonely Queen'.


Background - Tirpitz Specifications

Displacement 42,900 tons

Length 824 feet

Width 118 feet

Engine power 163,026 hp

Maximum speed 30.8 knots

Range 10,350 miles

Sea combat crew 2,400 men

Main armament 8 x 15 inch guns

Shell weight 1760 lbs

Range 22 miles

Firing rate 2 shots per minute


Background - Mosquito Specifications

Span 54 ft 2 inches

Length 40 ft 6 inches

Height 12ft 6 inches

Weight 23,000 lbs loaded

Engines Two Rolls-Royce Merlins

Power 1,690 hp per engine

Crew 2

Max Speed 415 mph

Range 1,955 miles



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