By Kevin Canada
War at Sea: U.S. Navy Plan Red, Bermuda
is the target of an American invasion in Scenario
4, “Rocky Outpost.” Bermuda is
certainly rocky, and it can be considered
an outpost, of sorts. But from the 1860s to
the time of the Great War, Bermuda was also
known as the “Gibraltar of the West.”
In large part this was due to the fact that
Bermuda was one of the most heavily fortified
islands in the British Empire, or indeed of
any power, relative to its geographic size.
Over the course of its history, Bermuda has
been the site of more than 100 forts or fortifications.
Most of these fortifications were in the form
of fixed sea-facing batteries, which protected
the very restricted channels into Bermuda’s
two main harbors. Interestingly, these batteries
were erected to protect Bermuda from American
invasion, which was deemed a real possibility
during the post-Civil War era to 1898, and
not formally discounted until 1937.
Bermuda’s forts were modernized and
up-gunned from 1865-1898, when 12 forts sported
some 87 guns: 47 x 64-pdr, 10 x 9-inch, 23
x 10-inch, 5 x 11-inch and 2 x 12.5-inch guns
(all rifled muzzle-loaders). With the perfection
of breech-loading guns at the turn of the
century, and the simultaneous reduction in
tensions between the U.S. and Great Britain,
the number of forts and batteries decreased
from 1898 through 1910. By this time, there
were just six active forts with only 22 guns:
2 x 12-pdr quick-firing, 6 x 4.7-inch quick-firing,
10 x 6-inch and 4 x 9.2-inch. As the focus
of British attention fell more and more on
Germany, the strategic significance of Bermuda
dropped precipitously, such that by 1913 only
eight guns of three forts remained to defend
The last period of fortification on Bermuda
came during the Second World War. Ironically,
the Americans undertook this effort, installing
something like 12 fixed guns in six batteries
across the island (by this time, the British
only had one battery of 6-inch guns left,
and during the war installed only two more
guns). From 1939 to 1944, the emplacements
supported 4 x 6-inch (GB), 4 x 155mm, 4 x
6-inch (US), and 2 x 8-inch (ex-railway guns).
Added to the defenses were four 105mm (non-fixed)
howitzers and numerous light anti-aircraft
guns to protect the seaplane base and naval
air stations built by the U.S. after 1940.
The 105mm guns were intended to provide artillery
support to ground troops in the event of an
invasion, since all other batteries were in
Bermuda in 1940.
The real strength of the Bermuda batteries
was not in their ability to engage enemy warships
at long range (some of these guns had the
ability to fire at up to 27,000 yards), but
to guard the only two passages through the
extremely treacherous reefs surrounding the
island and into the main harbors (the unnavigable
reefs extend from 1 to 2 nautical miles on
the south and eastern sides of the island
to over 10 nautical miles on the north and
western sides). The long (4 nautical miles
into Hamilton’s port, or 17 nautical
miles into St. George’s harbor, site
of the Royal Navy dockyards), restricted channels
meant that enemy vessels would have to engage
in a substantial pre-invasion bombardment
(and hopefully knock out all defending batteries)
or attempt to run past the guns at something
close to point-blank range.
Neither scenario posed an easy proposition
to a potential invader. Indeed, once ashore,
an enemy then faced the prospect of fighting
against a opponent on very good defensive
terrain, with many small caves and rocky outcrops,
not to mention the dozens of tiny islets scattered
throughout the islands harbors. While not
impregnable by any means, any attack on the
island would require significant naval and
ground assets to be successful.
In U.S. Navy Plan Red, Bermuda is
not explicitly depicted with any significant
defenses — only a preparatory
bombardment is needed
to silence the coastal batteries. In part
this is due to the historical fact that by
1921 Bermuda’s defenses had been denuded
to only two 6-inch guns. However, what would
have happened if Britain had attempted to
reinforce the island and add additional guns
to its defenses, approaching something close
to the status around 1910?
American gun crews occupy Bermuda, 1940.
Since the British had long expected a U.S.
invasion of the island, permanent emplacements
existed across the island in over a dozen
masonry forts and protected positions. This
would have allowed a relatively quick process
of adding guns. Assuming at a minimum that
such reinforcement would resemble the WWII
armament, 16 guns would represent a respectable
As a variant, any invasion of Bermuda must
occur on the tactical map. Use the tactical
map overlay for the island. Bermuda has three
coastal forts, one with two secondary and
one tertiary (H8), one with one secondary
and one tertiary (I9), and a third with one
primary, three secondary and two tertiary
(J7). All are protected by heavy armor, and
gain a fire +1 modifier in addition to all
Movement on the tactical map overlay of
the island is highly restricted: All ships
attempting to move in coastal hexes outside
the marked navigation channels (K7, K8, J7,
I8, H8) will be grounded on a die roll of
2 through 6. American ships ground on a die
roll of 5 or 6 in the marked navigation channels.
No more than two ships (four if DD or smaller)
may move through the marked channels per impulse
without penalty; for each additional two (or
four if DD or smaller), add +1 to the grounding
die roll. Ships may move up to speed 1+ in
the marked navigation channels without penalty.
For each additional speed increment above
1+ (2, 2+, 3, etc.), add +1 to the grounding
Minefields may be placed in any hex of the
tactical map, up to a maximum of one per hex.
The port of St. George (J7) may only hold
three capital ships or six non-capital ships.
The Port of Hamilton and The Dockyards (H8)
may hold up to six capital ships and 12 non-capital
ships. Transports count as capital ships for
purposes of this rule. Only two transports
may unload in each of these hexes at a time.
Transports may not unload in any hex
except these two ports (J7, H8).
You can download
the new tactical overlay here.
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