Friday, April 23, 2010

70th anniversary of a fight you never heard of

One of the neat things about Larry Bond's Admiralty series of games is the exhaustive research that goes into them, to the point that wargamers can, if they are so inclined, recreate some truly obscure incidents.

One such episode was an early morning encounter on April 23, 1940 between three French destroyers and a small German mine-laying force comprised of two mine ships and two patrol boats off the coast of Denmark. The actual incident itself resulted in no damage to either side, although shots were fired. It's a scenario in the La Guerre Navale book in Atlantic Navies, Vol. VII of the Command at Sea series of naval games by Clash of Arms.

Before dismissing this out of hand as uninteresting, I think that this sort of scenario reminds us that it's not all grand battles and important campaigns in wartime. Indeed, most of it consists of unsung routine duty that nevertheless carries danger. A sailor is just as dead whether he dies in a famous fleet action or in some forgotten naval skirmish that will hardly rate a mention in history. I think it's certain that this small action in the Skagerrak has never appeared in a wargame before and nearly as certain that it will never appear again.

But it's nice to see that it appeared at least once, and that the French and German seaman who risked their lives that morning are not forgotten entirely.

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