of Suez': Ships and Planes
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
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
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
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.
here to order Second World War at Sea:
East of Suez today!