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'East of Suez': Ships and Planes
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
January 2007

Whenever we announce plans for a new naval game or module, we always, without fail, get a wave of feedback asking what new ships or airplanes will be included. Doesn’t matter how thoroughly we describe the components, there are always more requests. And that’s a wonderful thing, part of the fun of working in Santa’s workshop.

Our newest book supplement, East of Suez, adds the activities of the British Pacific Fleet to the Second World War at Sea series. It requires maps and pieces from Leyte Gulf, Strike South and Eastern Fleet for almost all of the scenarios, and parts from Bismarck for just one. It has a full sheet of playing pieces included, 70 “long” ship pieces and 140 smaller ones for small ships and for aircraft. Along with background articles on the ships and campaigns, there are over three dozen new scenarios.

But what about the toys?

   

East of Suez is loaded with what series fans have been begging for: battleships and jet planes. The Royal Navy receives late-war versions of the battleships Duke of York and Anson. They’ve not been present in the series before, though Duke of York will appear again soon, defending the Arctic route to Russia.

The Royal Navy’s last battleship, Vanguard, shows up as well. Designed as a fast ship for the Eastern Fleet to make use of 15-inch guns and turrets kept in storage since the 1920s (when the battle cruisers for which they were manufactured were converted into aircraft carriers), she did not actually make it into action in time. That of course has never been an obstacle for us.

When war erupted in the fall of 1939, the Royal Navy had just laid down two new battleships of the Lion class, with two more planned to follow in the next year’s program. The Lion class would carry 16-inch guns and would finally give the British battleships up to the London Treaty’s 45,000-ton limit — well after other nations had already ignored that nicety. All four are included, with of course necessarily hypothetical scenarios for their use. They are not as capable as modern American battleships with 16-inch guns — the British model threw a substantially lighter shell — but are much better than anything else the Royal Navy has to offer.

   

Unable to match American shipyards’ production of Essex-class fleet carriers, in 1942 the Royal navy began construction of the first of three classes of light carriers. Eight were laid down in 1942, eight more in 1943, three in 1944 and one in 1945, for a total of 20. They proved well-built ships, though of limited capability, and ecnomical to run. They served in the post-War Royal Navy far longer than the slightly larger fleet carriers, with one taking part in the Falklands War 39 years after she was laid down and still serving the Indian Navy another two decades later. Five of them set out to join the British Pacific Fleet in 1945, but did not arrive in time to participate in operations and so were not included in Leyte Gulf. They’re here now, along with their air groups. There are also 13 escort carriers, which had a much greater front-line role in british service than was true of their American near-sisters.

   

We also have the Dutch. The planned Dutch battlecruisers of the ill-fated 1939 re-armament program are present, all three of them. The scenarios for their use are set in during the 1941-1942 campaigns covered by Strike South, and they are formidable opponents for the Japanese cruiser squadrons, living up to their pre-war designation as “Cruiser Killers.” They are less so against battleships, but the Japanese did not deploy their battle line in the South Seas and they have plenty of speed to escape.

The two Dutch light cruisers from the same program are also present, that would not be completed until after the war. They’re a definite improvement over the Dutch cruisers in Strike South, but no match for the big Japanese heavy cruisers they’ll face in the Java Sea. There are also several Dutch destroyers laid down about the same time but not completed in time, either.

There is only one French ship present, but it is the ship for which we’ve probably had more requests than any others: the battleship Richelieu. Almost complete when the Germans overran France in 1940, she fled to West Africa where she would be damaged in a British attack. After joining the Free French naval forces in 1942, she received a major refit in the United States and went to join the British Eastern Fleet in 1944. She took part in most British operations in the war’s last two years, and makes a number of appearances in the book’s scenarios.

   

And there are jet planes. The Royal Air Force has the Gloster Meteor jet fighter, while the Fleet Air Arm brings the Sea Vampire carrier fighter and one of the strangest concepts of the war, the SRA-1 jet seaplane fighter. Plus huge numbers of more recognizable carrier aircraft, and a wide array of land-based planes as well.

East of Suez adds up to a very nice package, and players of our popular series can expect many more similar products this year and in the future.

Click here to order Second World War at Sea: East of Suez today!