Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Victory at Sea: 1st Wave of Kriegsmarine Stuff: Light Cruisers, Destroyers and U-Boats

And now for something completely different...
Over the last year or so...or maybe more...my old buddy The Troll and I have been getting into WW II naval games.  So far we've been using GHQ's Micronauts line and Mongoose Games' Victory At Sea rules.

The Micronauts are astonishingly detailed and quite lovely.  This is all very new to me, so in my efforts to get to a completed fleet, I've been leaving a trail of plasticard clippings, Vallejo water texture puddles and broken and ruined models in my wake for some time.  Still, by sticking to it, by starting with small ships instead of big ships, and by refusing to cry, panic or throw a model out the window more than once in a sitting,  I have finally managed to successfully assemble and paint the foundation of my tiny Kriegsmarine.  I also have a tiny Royal Navy but I'm not quite happy with them and want to make some changes to them before I call them finished, and move on to the big stuff.

So here's the first wave.

KMS Nurnberg:  Nurnberg was one of the two first Micronauts I purchased.  I picked her and HMS Belfast off a rack at Enfilade more or less at random.  I wanted two smallish ships which could fight each other so I could get a feel for the VAS rules.  Nurnberg was the second of the two-ship Leipzig class of light cruisers and spent the war engaged in mine laying activities and as a training ship.  She was captured intact by the British at the end of the war.

KMS Emden: I chose the Nurnberg at random, but I picked the Emden because I thought she had an interesting story.  That ended up being a theme.  It's the tale of a ship that gets me interested in modeling it.  Entering the Kriegsmarine in 1925, the Emden was the first large warship built by Germany after WW 1. Thanks to the restrictions of the treaty of Versailles, her armament was very light, and by the outbreak of the war she was considered to be something of an antique.  Like Nurnberg, she spent most of the war as a trainer and a mine layer.  Emden was involved in one of the very first clashes between British and German forces, when, on Sept 3, 1939 she was attacked by three squadrons of RAF bombers.

 By a weird twist of fate one of these bombers was piloted by a certain Flight Officer Henry Emden.  Emden shot down Emden, who died when he crashed his plane into the bow of his namesake and nemesis.  In the waning months of the war, Emden was tasked with the removal of Paul von Hindenburg's remains from East Prussia in order to keep them out of the hands of the Russians.  She was later mauled and wrecked by British bombers while undergoing repairs in Kiel harbor.

KMS Koln:  Koln was one of the three Konigsberg or 'K' class light cruisers.  All three K class vessels fought in the Norwegian campaign but Koln was the only one to survive it.  Koln's other wartime activities included mine laying and providing naval gunfire support for Army Group North.  Interestingly, for a time in 1942 she carried experimental FL 282 helicopters.  Unfortunately, GHQ does not provide a helicopter option with your Koln model.  If they did, mine would have one.

Koln was finally sunk in  shallow water in Wilhelmshaven harbor by American aircraft, but because she had been holed in only a few feet of water, her belly rested on the bottom while her deck stayed dry.  Ignoring the fact of her own sinking, she continued to fight as a static artillery battery until the final hours of the war.

An interesting feature of the K-class cruiser vs other cruisers:  note the rear turrets are offset from one another.  From what I understand, the gun turrets were just a little too big for the size of the ship, but by offsetting them the designers managed to successfully accommodate them.

1934/36 Class Destroyers:

Wolfgang Zenker unsuccessfully sparred with Polish destroyers and coastal artillery in the first few hours of the war and, along with Erich Giese and Erich Koellner, took part in successful mine laying operations along the British coast. Later all three destroyers helped ferry Mountain troops into the Narvik area during the Norwegian campaign.  They participated in the bloody fight with the British 10th Destroyer flotilla on 10 April and were later trapped with other German destroyers in the Rombaksfjord by the Battleship HMS Warspite and her own group of escorting destroyers. The crew of the Wolfgang Zenker fought until they had expended all their ammunition, then, having no way to escape and nothing with which to fight, they scuttled her to keep her out of British hands.
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Erich Giese was attacked and sunk on 13th April by the destroyers HMS Punjabi and HMS Bedouin  after she had been paralyzed by engine trouble and left behind by her flotilla.  She went down fighting, scoring hits and inflicting damage on both her pursuers before she succumbed.

Erich Koellner managed to run herself aground during the Narvik fighting and was severely damaged.  She was eventually run down and shot up at very close range by the HMS Warspite and her escorting destroyers.  The Warspite was firing at such blood curdlingly close range that her enormous shells plunged through the Erich Koellner without detonating.  Having launched their torpedoes and lost their main guns, the survivors of the crippled destroyer scuttled her.

Type IX U-Boats: The type IX U-Boats were longer ranged than the more numerous type VIIs, and were able to carry a heavier load of torpedoes.  These tiny fellows were fun to work on but their upper extremities are extremely fragile and tend to break off in a stiff breeze.  I managed to avoid destroying 4 out of the 5 that came in the pack, though.  Not bad.

U-37:  6th most successful U-boat of the war, U-37 sank 53 ships altogether.  She was not the most discriminating of raiders, and counted Vichy French, Spanish, Swedish and even Finnish vessels among her victims.  Whoops. Still, an accomplished killer.  After her active duty time, she spent the rest of the war as a training boat and was scuttled in the last days of the conflict.

U-124:  Many of the crew of the U-124 were transfers from the boat U-64, which had been lost in the Norwegian campaign.  Her conning tower sported an Edelweiss flower, a tip of the hat to the German mountain infantry who had rescued some of the crew.  She was another very successful raiser, sinking 46 merchant ships, the French Frigate Mimosa and the light cruiser HMS Dunedin.  The Royal Navy finally ran U-124 down in March, 1943.  She was sunk with all hands off the Portuguese coast by the corvette HMS Stonecrop and the sloop HMS Black Swan.

U-109:  U-109 sink 12 allied merchant vessels between 1941 and May of 1943, when she was sunk by allied aircraft.  Can't remember why I chose to model her.  Maybe I thought 'U-109' had a nice ring to it.
U-505 - From the very first, I knew that if I were going to get into WW II naval miniatures, I would have the infamous U-505 in my fleet.  Had to, her story is compellingly weird, and anyway, I have been aboard her!  For her first few patrols, from 1941 to 1942, U-505 didn't do too badly.  She did manage to sink a handful of allied ships and to keep clear of the fury of the Royal Navy.  Luck began to desert her on her 4th patrol, however, when she was caught on the surface and savaged by allied aircraft.  Although she almost miraculously managed to return to port after this aborted patrol, she had been so horrendously mauled that she became known as the most badly damaged u-boat ever to return to port.  She seemed to have terrible trouble getting properly fixed up and her next five patrols were aborted more or less right out of the gate due to mechanical troubles, abuse at the hands of British destroyers and also at those of  French dockworkers who for some reason always seemed to managed to break more things on the boat than they repaired.  The conspicuous number of failed patrols led to unkind things being said about the commitment and courage of U-505's commander at the time, Peter Zschech.  
There may have been something to this talk because on U-505's 10th patrol Zschech cracked up under fire and committed suicide in full view his crew.  On her 12th patrol U-505 was found by a hunter-killer group and crippled before she could dive.  Her captain ordered the crew to scuttle and abandon ship.  But even in their attempt to destroy their own boat, the crew of U-505 could not get a break.  Scuttle valves and charges had apparently not been properly prepared, so U.S. Navy personnel were able to board the U-505, and, incredibly, take her her completely intact.  She yielded up an intelligence treasure trove whose capture would have far-reaching effects. 
Normally I think of U-505 as an unlucky boat but...maybe not.  After all, she and nearly all her crew survived the war.
U-505 is, of course, on display today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and was a great help to the makers of the film Das Boot  in the modeling of the film's heroine, U-96.  Chicago is my wife's home town and when we were newly married she took me to see U-505 while I was on leave.  If you've never been, GO SEE U-505 if you ever get a chance.  It's quite an experience.  I put it up there with Gettysburg.  I would have posted this days ago, but I was rummaging around looking for my U-505 pictures, hoping to include some of them in the post but I can't seem to find them.  Drat.
Royal Navy stuff next!


  1. Great info and stories here. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for posting these! Great paint jobs, and it is always good to see naval stuff.

    Are you going to do fantasy/paper ships too? If no, then then German fleet will not get much bigger!

    1. Thanks, Lasgunpaker! It's a departure from my usual fare, but I've been enjoying the games a great deal and the history you pick up along the way is even more fun. In fact I AM planning on including a fantasy ship of sorts...that would be the Graf Zeppelin!

  3. Nice job, and thanks for the history. It made for a fun read.