ANS Hyperion (BC-1938)
Back to Special Projects
Atlantean Naval Ship Hyperion. My fictional Atlantis is a very rich land and can afford to build the ships it wants. I cheat a bit with giving Atlantis a 'genius' in Alex Vermuyden which spawns many advances for Atlantis as soon as any other shipbuilding nation may get them and even lets them be the inventors of some.
When the Germanic States Navy builds their Ostereich Class raiders, armed with 8x12" and a good turn of speed, then the Atlanteans needed to build ships to counter these vessels. Atlantis was very much trade based and needed free and open trade routes to carry their exports to Europe and North America, being their largest markets. Having the chance of any of their bullion shipments being intercepted was unacceptable.
Laid down in 1934, the Hyperion and Gemini, were completed in 1938. They were a basic four turret design with two turrets, each, fore and aft. These turrets mounted 15" guns of a new mark. The secondary armament featured a new twin 5" dual purpose weapon system with three turrets being mounted per side. Four octuple mountings of the 2 pounder AA weapons were fitted on the fore and aft superstructures to give as wide a coverage as possible. From late 1939, more and more 20mm AA guns were added, till in 1942-43 the ships AA armament was completely revamped and replaced with the 40mm Bofors mountings. Propulsion was a major factor in the ships prime purpose of catching and dispatching Ostereich class battlecruisers. Four shaft turbine machinery was installed to produce a speed of up to 34 knots with a 'normal' high speed rating of 33 knots. That is where one of the Vermuyden bits of genius came into being with the engineering plant producing more power for its size than those of other major powers. A distinct advantage where more tonnage was then available for other major areas. Armour, armament, liveability of the crew spaces.
|Displacement||34,000 tons std, 39,400 tons full load|
|Machinery||4 shaft, Steam turbines, 160,000shp|
|Range||8000 miles at 15 knots|
|Armour||12" side, 5" deck, 12" turrets|
|Armament||8 x 15" (4x2)
12 x 5" (6x2)
32 x 2pd (4x8)
The convoys assemble, Nova Scotia August 1941
Since the loss of Gibraltar, Force H had been based on Atlantis. The Atlantean forces made the difference for facing off the Axis Combined Fleet (South). Once Force H had to be drawn north to take on the Axis Combined Fleet (North) then that left the Allied South Atlantic fleet to come north to hold the Axis forces in the Mediterranean. A job they were capable of doing. When I left the Axis main battlefleet after Denmark Strait they were heading south for the convoy lanes, while the remnants of the Home Fleet and Force H rushed to get in front of them before the Axis ships got to the convoys. I had forgotten about Atlantis in my original Orders of Battle and now making them available through Force H will probably make the difference to the Allied forces. Why? Because the Atlanteans were designing and building their own aircraft and had a fighter almost as good as the FW-190A's aboard their carriers. Before the final major battle takes place the Germanic States, Admiral Albrecht, is going to have to unleash his heavy cruisers to go after the convoys while his major warships take on the brunt of the battle. If the German forces can destroy the two convoys at sea, then that will put the Allies right on the back foot and go a long way to making an invasion of the British Isles a possibility. No fuel for the army. Hard to defend against tanks.
Because of the circumstances I am trying to create for the next phase of the battles, I will have much better escorts available to the convoys than they had in real life.
The Battle for Convoys SC42 (65 ships) and HX147 (64 ships).
The SC stood for 'Slow Convoy', and they were. Restricted to the speed of the slowest ship, that speed could be 6-7-8 knots and were ideal prey for U-boat packs. On the other hand the HX convoys were much faster and generally made 12-15 knots. These were much harder for the U-boats to catch and attack. The HX convoys also generally had a better set of escorts, the ships and cargoes being of higher value.
The SC42 convoy had had U-boats in contact for the past three days and nights, with fierce battles around the convoy between the convoy escorts and U-boats. The convoy had so far lost 12 ships to the U-boats with two U-boats claimed sunk.
At this stage there are 12 U-boats still around the convoy, while the close Escort Group (Canadian) comprised three A-I class converted long range destroyers, four frigates (River type) and six Acacia class escorts. The large escort force was a cruiser (Daedalus class) with a Mars Class Leader, and three A-I class full destroyers. As long as the U-boats kept after the merchant ships and did not go after the escorts first, then the escorts could keep the U-boats at bay.
Convoy HX147 was almost a hundred miles ahead of SC42 and had slipped the U-boat line now attacking SC42 without loss. This was as much to do with the escort carrier with the convoy keeping the U-boats down while the convoy passed by. HX147's escort was much larger. One escort carrier (HMS Revenge), one battlecruiser (ANS Gemini-this page), one anti-aircraft ship (HMS Humber), a total of fouteen destroyers, 2xThanatos (escorts for the Gemini), 2xA-I class, 6xVW class, and 4xHunt class DDE's, with 3xRiver type as the close escorts to the CVE.
Admiral Albrecht via the U-boats knows exactly what SC42 consists of for both escorts and merchantmen. He is unsure of what the HX147 convoy escort and merchantmen are. The U-boats only report was on the ASW aircraft that had kept them away, pointing to the convoy escort having a carrier, and because of that probably a decent amount of escorts as well. To crack the HX147 nut will require a decent force. To deal to SC42 will require less and can be done in concert with the U-boats. Admiral Albrecht has two battlecruisers and four big cruisers to send after the convoys. Moltke and Von Der Tann were to be sent after SC42, while the two Hipper class battlecruisers and two Prinz Eugen class cruisers would be sent after HX147.
HX147 underway, being looked over and after by the ASW aircraft from the Revenge.
The Revenge is ordered to use its Grumman Wildcats in scout mode to keep an eye to the North and West for any Axis raiders that may be approaching HX147. The Wildcats are to fly as far to the West as possible to try to give warning to SC42 if any Axis cruisers are heading its way. Force H has detached the Hyperion (this page) and two Hestia class cruisers to go to the aid of SC42 in case Axis cruisers were sent that way. Not being able to surveil the Axis forces because of the FW-190A's shooting down any scouts that may get any where near to the main fleet made it difficult to see if the fleet was still intact or if there had been breakaways to take note of. Once Force H came within range of its carriers aircraft then more information was able to be gleaned by the Atlantean air wing off the Aphrodite.
The scene is set with the Axis ships knowing where they are going but not what is there while the Allies know something is coming and are searching for it. Both sides have recon aircraft aloft which helps the Axis cruisers going for SC42 as they are unopposed. The Axis recon aircraft going for HX147 get there but are chased off before they can confirm what the makeup of the convoy is. The Wildcats in the CAP do their job.
The recon Wildcats also do their job, spotting the four big Axis cruisers heading for HX147 and coming on like locomotives. The convoy escort is going to be outnumbered but not outgunned. The Gemini will have the edge in gunpower and the priceless edge of spotters for its fall of shot. The destroyers of the escort group are also going to have a hard time as they will need to take some of the heat off the Gemini, with torpedo and gun attacks on the big cruisers. But first off the Revenge ranges and launches a strike of torpedo bombers and fighters (10 TB, 6 F) to see if they can damage the oncoming cruisers. Just one torpedo hit would make all the difference.
The air strike is supposed to go round the back of the Axis cruisers and come in on the disengaged side once the cruisers start firing at each other, hoping to get close before they are spotted. So it proves. The big ships open fire at about 30,000 yards. It is a beautiful, clear day, with comparatively light winds. Excellent gunnery conditions. With the help of the spotters the Gemini hits the Hipper early, and bright flashes show where the shells explode. The Hipper and Scheer are firing at the Gemini while the Prinz Eugen fires at the destroyers, and the Blucher fires at the merchantmen. The Revenge and its escorts have moved south of the convoy and out of sight of the Axis cruisers. Three more hits from the Gemini and the Hipper is in trouble, its speed is bleeding away through propulsion damage and the firing order is changed. Hipper is now to fire at the merchantmen while Blucher now fires at the Gemini. While there is confusion in the Axis battle line, the torpedo bombers start their attack runs with the half dozen Wildcats strafing the cruisers in AA fire suppression runs. Just one torpedo hit would have been good, four were just brilliant. The Hipper receives two torpedo hits and with its previous damage is now dead in the water, but still firing at the merchant ships still in range. The Blucher also receives two torpedo hits and its speed also bleeds away as the hull aft starts filling with water from a large split in the hull. Air superiority proves out again. Even an escort carrier can cripple surface ships.
There are four merchantmen burning, but still underway, creating a smokescreen for others in the convoy. Moving at 14 knots the convoy soon moved out of range of the two crippled Axis cruisers. Crippled they might be but they were still dangerous. A further air strike from the Revenge would hit them twice more each and finish the job. The middle of the North Atlantic is no place for crippled ships to have much hope of getting back to port.
The Scheer and Gemini continue to exchange fire, the Gemini slowly getting on top as the bigger shells and spotters take their toll on the Scheer. The Prinz Eugen has started firing at the merchantmen while both Axis cruisers use their secondary armament to keep the destroyers occupied. More and more merchantmen are hit with damage that will prove fatal in the end but Axis dreams of destroying the convoy are dashed when the Scheer also succumbs to the superior Gemini. With only one main turret left in action and major fires the Scheer is forced out of the line and heads for Spain. The Prinz Eugen suddenly finds itself the centre of attention. While it is a big cruiser it cannot stand against the Gemini. A few more salvos at the merchantmen, during which three 15" hits are received, and it is time for the Prinz Eugen to join the Scheer and head for Spain. Both ships managed to slip through the net of forces above and below them, especially with the focus on the main Axis Fleet. Lack of intelligence had proved the downfall of the Axis attempt to destroy HX147. The obsolete Swordfish, which were aboard the Revenge, proved more than adequate for their task of delivering torpedoes into the sides of enemy ships, especially with no opposition other than AA weaponry. Even Arado recon aircraft off the cruisers would have proved too much for the Swordfish, but the Wildcats took care of that problem. Air superiority. Who has it has the advantage.
SC42 had another three hours to wait before its Axis raiders arrived. They appeared as almost a complete surprise. Arado recon aircraft had been spotted surveiling the convoy and its escort. The escorts had no aircraft of their own but called for assistance in the vain hope something would be close enough to help. The escorts had to keep their anti-U-boat stance until such time as the threat changed and there was a direction that surface ships were arriving from to be defended against. The Daedalus knew that whatever Axis cruisers were coming their way would be two or three times its size. The Daedalus would have to sell itself dearly to give the convoy a chance to keep together and head toward the extra escort ships coming from the south-east. While HX147 had the air superiority, the Axis cruisers had the air superiority over SC42. Only three Arado aircraft were up but they were the advantage. While radar was still in its middle formative years, calling the fall of shot was beyond it. Just two years later the Allied radar would be able to follow the path of their shells from firing to arrival. No spotters required.
The Daedalus is in the middle of the convoy with the Mercury at the trail. A sighting report from one of the A-I's was followed almost immediately by a row of shell splashes near the front of the convoy. The Germans had arrived. The Daedalus and Mercury crack on speed and head for the sound of the guns. Captain Everard orders the three G class destroyers of his cover force to formate on his ship as well. The Convoy Commodore orders the convoy to turn so that its heading is 90 degrees away from the track of the Axis cruisers. At 7 knots it is going to take an age for the 50 odd ships to get round to the new heading. The three A-I long range destroyers go to the rear of the convoy and closest to the Axis cruisers. Once they are all in position the destroyers will make smoke and zig-zag across the back, hopefully to shield the merchantmen.
At 28 knots the Axis cruisers make a mockery of such efforts, turning so that they may parallel the convoy, the report is made of the cruiser and large destroyer, and with a spotter in the air for each ship they take one each and start firing on them. it is another five minutes before the Daedalus can reply. Both Allied ships take damage and when the Daedalus opens fire it is only with the aft turrets, the fore turret and bridge 4" have been obliterated by a pair of 8.2" hits. The Axis cruisers are both firing well and with the spotters are making mincemeat of the Allied pair. The three G class arrive and surge past the badly damaged cruiser while the Mercury tags onto the rear of the trio as they head for the big cruisers, to try for a torpedo attack. This draws the gunfire off the Daedalus who uses the respite to get itself together to re-engage. The four destroyers make a tremendous sight with huge bow waves as they head toward the Axis cruisers. A shout goes up "Aircraft coming in!", but almost immediately the counter call is "Negative, friendlies". Three Wildcats screamed in, catching the Arados by surprise and shooting them out of the sky. No more spotters. Seeing the destroyers on the charge the Wildcats bore in on the cruisers firing on both ships in the hope of distracting some of the armament. The German commanders were distracted, a lot of events happening in a short period of time. Ducking as the Wildcats strafed the bridge structures, the destroyers getting ever larger and closer, the Daedalus started firing again and those shells arrived with the Wildcats.
The destroyers make their turns, firing on the turn, a full barrage, 32 torpedoes in the water. It is what the Axis cruisers have been waiting for, the twin 88mm mountings fire as fast as they can, with hits sparkling up and down the line of destroyers. The Griffon receives several hits and instead of powering away from the Axis cruisers starts losing speed as a gout of steam denotes a problem in the machinery rooms. The 88mm keep hammering the Griffon as the rest of the flotilla draws away. Another explosion aft as a magazine is triggered and the stern blows away, 15 seconds later the depth charges on the stern that had not been set to safe after the nights fighting the U-boats, explode, lifting what is left of the ship into the air and blowing it on to its side, the Griffon missed seeing the beautiful sight of a column of water growing higher and higher alongside the Moltke. The Axis cruisers had made their avoiding turn and 31 torpedoes had missed, the one that hit was near the stern and mangled the starboard shafts, slowing the Moltke considerably. Knowing what awaited the ship, the Moltke turned toward the convoy to get closer and sink as many merchantmen as possible while the Von der Tann took out the escorts before joining the merchantmen slaughter.
The U-boats that had been massing (Group Markgraf) to attack the convoy, heard the gunfire and figured Axis cruisers were in contact with the convoy. The Group Kommander ordered the group to attack and the U-boats went into the convoy as well. We now have both the Axis cruiser and U-boats playing tag in the middle of the convoy with the escorts. The Moltke used its 88mm guns to fire at the escorts, while firing its main armament at the merchantmen. It also had two banks of three torpedoes, (one each side) which it fired individually at high value merchantmen (oilers). The Moltke cut a swathe through the convoy leaving destruction in its wake, until one of the A-I destroyers appeared from between two merchantmen and put its bank of three torpedoes into the side of the Moltke. Boom, boom, boom, all three hit and ripped the side out. The Moltke fell over onto its side as water poured into the huge rips, ten minutes and the hulk had disappeared.
The Von der Tann and Daedalus were exchanging fire till the VdT put almost a full broadside into the Daedalus and the cruiser came to a slow stop with all its main armament dismounted. Major fires along its length, it would only be a matter of time for that gallant ship. The VdT turned its main armament on the merchantmen and used its rear turret and director to fire at different targets from the front guns and director. More merchantmen being hit and disabled. "Kapitan! Aircraft!" the lookout pointing to port where two Walrus amphibians were slowly trundling toward the convoy. Where had they come from. Five minutes later the VdT found out as the first salvo from the Hyperion landed inline but just short of the VdT. The Von der Tann was caught good and proper by its worst nightmare. A battlecruiser it could neither run away from or outfight. The only thing the VdT could do was to head through the middle of the convoy and out the other side and away from the Hyperion. It had five miles to run before it hit the edge of the convoy, zig-zagging all the way. The two Hestia class light cruisers went left and right around the front and rear of the convoy to herd the Von der Tann to where the Hyperion could get at it. The Von der Tann like the Moltke before it had forgotten about the escorts that would hunt the ship through the convoy as well. The Beagle and Antelope caught the Von der Tann in a crossfire of gunfire and torpedoes that hit the ship and slowed it down to where escape would be impossible. More merchantmen were targeted and hit, till the Von der Tann could fire no more as the flooding from the torpedoes reached the main forward magazine and flooded it. Leaving just the rear triple turret in action.
The U-boats were having a wonderful time as well, guns and torpedoes being fired at any target that presented itself. A frigate and two escorts were lost to torpedoes in this way with another dozen merchantmen as well. The escorts fought back and sank four U-boats. The Walrus aircraft were invaluable for this, reporting where the U-boats were so that escorts could ambush them. With the end of the two cruisers the U-boats were ordered to dive and escape to come back again in the night.
The losses to men and material were enormous.
The Axis lost a battlecruiser, 3 heavy cruisers and 6 U-boats.
The Allies major loss was the 37 merchant ships from SC42 and eight merchant ships from HX147. The lost cargoes would require a tightening of the belts till replacements could be landed from replacement convoys weeks later.
The loss of a light cruiser, three destroyers, a frigate and two escorts were minor losses compared to the Axis warship losses, but the Axis ships had not had a 'get the escorts first' mentality. Right from the start Axis ships would be firing at the merchantmen.
Back to Special Projects page: