Go to ...


The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


RSS Feed

Action off Cape Santa Maria 1804

The Age of Fighting Sail, Post Captain, 1/1200 scale 

This week, I wasn’t going to make it into the club due to car trouble, but fortunately my friend Bruce was up visiting – who’s both ex navy and vaguely interested in wargaming. So, we managed to fit in a game at my place. This was a small Napoleonic naval affair, with just five ships – three on one side and two on the other. These days I tend to use Kiss Me Hardy for fleet battles, and Post Captain for frigate actions. Both rule sets work really well. In this one, I was Capitan Robert Legume, of the French frigate Hortense, who’d slipped through the Cadiz blockade, accompanied by two Spaniards, the frigate Santa Teresa and the zebec privateer El Gamo. All three were now on their way to the Caribbean. Unfortunately for them, they were spotted by two British frigates,  Endymion and Surprise, which were returning to the  blockade after taking on water.  So, Legume had a fight on his hands. Bruce took the role of Captain Philip Durham of the 40-gun Endymion, sailing in consort with the 28-gun Surprise – the ‘dear old surprise’ of the Patrick O’ Brian novels. Both Bruce and I are big fans of the books. Anyway, the 40-gun Hortense and the 34-gun Santa Teresa  decided to fight, and as they had the weather gauge they closed with the slower-moving British. My plan was to gang up on one of the British, and keep the El Gamo out of the way. The advantage of the privateer though, was that she was crammed with men, so if it came to a boarding action, then she’d join in to support my boarders, from either the Spanish or the French frigate. The range dropped quite rapidly, and it was the Allies who opened fire first, turning to deliver their starboard broadsides at a range of a few hundred yards. We caused some damage to the rigging of Endymion, so it looked like we were off to a good start. Then the wind veered. it was now coming from the shore – a stiff northerly breeze, rather than a north-easterly one. this robbed me of my ability to keep my distance – and gave the British the chance to close in. The British turned to starboard, to get out of the arc of my guns, and began closing the range quickly. It soon became clear that my attempt to fight a gunnery duel at long range wasn’t going to work. This was going to be a melee! Sure enough, within two turns the two sides had come within pistol shot of each other, with the British and the Allied frigates threading through each other.  Endymion ranged along the starboard side of Hortense, and the two frigates traded brutal broadsides with each other. Meanwhile Surprise headed for Santa Teresa, coming between the French and Spanish frigates. The Spaniard fired as Surprise approached, but their accuracy was less than perfect.As she came on, Surprise fired her starboard guns at Hortense, but her real target was the Teresa. She waited until she was within close range and ranged alongside, then unleashed her port broadside. It cut down her foremast, and caused chaos on board. the Spanish fired back, but it was clear they were losing the duel. Then Surprise fired again, and the Santa Teresa hauled down her colours. All of a sudden the odds had turned heavily in Bruce’s favour. Rather than secure her prize though, Surprise lived up to her name. She turned to starboard, and slowly approached the port side of Hortense, which soon found herself caught between the fire of both British frigates. Until then she’d been holding her own, and her broadsides were matching Endymion’s ones in their ferocity. Both frigates were pretty badly beaten up by this stage, so the sudden appearance of Surprise was something of a game changer. She ranged along the port side of Hortense, and Surprise and her carronades really added to the weight of fire sweeping the French decks. A lucky shot from Hortense killed Endymion’s captain, and wrecked the ship’s wheel, but by this stage it was really too little too late.Eventually my alter ego Captain Legume had to bow to the inevitable, and hauled down his colours. His decks by this stage, were awash with blood, and half his guns were dismounted. It was all over. Well, not quite. While all this had been going on the Spanish had been busy. Not aboard the El Gato – she had spent the game keeping well out of the way. The frigate Santa Teresa though, had struck her colours, and so should have waiting to surrender  to a British boarding party. When it didn’t come, as Surprise was too busy fighting, she sneakily hauled up her Spanish flag again, and began heading off towards the Spanish coast. As soon as Hortense struck the Surprise set off in pursuit of the dishonorable Spaniard. They’d too much of a head start though, and so both Spanish ships made it off the table, heading towards the nearby port of Huelva and safety. Still, the action was over, and the Hortense was safely in British hands. The main thing is, Bruce really enjoyed his afternoon, and wanted to have another go before he left Orkney. So, we may have a convert on our hands!






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More Stories From The Age of Fighting Sail