Cheltenham Wargaming Association

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The following are a selection of articles and wargames rules written by Club members



Desert Spitfires

Air warfare Rules For Palestine 1948



As tested at the Club. These easy play rules for air combat see Israel, Egypt and Britain fighting each other in the skies over Palestine. Part of the Wings at War series.

The rules come as a PDF file suitable for printing on both sides of two A4 sheets. Print odd pages first and then even pages on the back of the sheets. Fold in half to make a four page booklet.

Desert Spitfires



Simple Sails

Naval Rules For The Age Of Sail by Alan Young



Our top 'sailsman' Alan has written these fastplay rules for use at the Club.

Click on the image to download the rules as a PDF file.

download Simple Sails




The Battle of Cape Esperance

(Extract from an article by Chris Russell published in Miniature Wargames)



After a string of impressive victories at the start of the Pacific War the Japanese occupied the southern end of the Solomon Islands in mid-1942. From here their planes could interdict the sea-lanes between the USA and Australia and they began to construct an airfield on the island of Guadalcanal.

Before it could be completed, the American Navy mounted their first amphibious invasion since the previous century. They swept aside the light forces holding the area and finished construction of the airstrip, renamed Henderson Field, for their own use.

The Japanese reacted swiftly, sending bombers and ships from Rabaul in the Northwest. Their night attack at the Battle Of Savo Island on the 9th. of August smashed through the combined US/Australian fleet covering the landing, but failed to follow through and finish off the transports anchored off Guadalcanal.

By October piecemeal ground offensives by troops brought to Guadalcanal on the destroyers of the 'Tokyo Express' had failed to eject the US Marines. US Aircraft flew devastating strikes from the newly completed Henderson Field, forcing the Japanese to operate exclusively at night.

The Japanese prepared a major nighttime reinforcement run by the Tokyo Express. Two seaplane tenders and six destroyers were packed with men and artillery. In addition to intensified air attacks, which so far had proved costly to the dwindling force of Japanese bombers, three heavy cruisers and two destroyers were to follow behind the reinforcement run in order to put Henderson Field out of action by shore bombardment. Their commander Rear Admiral Goto was so sure that the Americans would not dare confront his ships at night that he did not bother to co-ordinate the movements of his force with that of the Tokyo Express.

The Americans, however, were determined to take on the Japs. Rear Admiral Scott was tasked with protecting a US reinforcement operation and, if possible, prevent the Japanese landing any troops of their own. Scott's force of four cruisers and five destroyers had been training hard since the BUSS Boiseattle Of Savo Island had highlighted Japanese expertise in night actions. He introduced a simple line-ahead formation, cruisers sandwiched between destroyers. The later were to illuminate targets with searchlights, fire torpedoes at big ships, guns at small, whilst the cruisers fired at opportunity targets without waiting for orders. Like the Japanese, floatplanes were to be launched to seek out and illuminate the enemy.

Unfortunately instead of choosing one of the new SG radar equipped Brooklyn 6" Class cruisers as flagship, Scott followed tradition in basing himself on an 8"-gunned cruiser, the San Francisco, still fitted with the inferior SC radar set.

On the 11th November a coast watcher forewarned Scott of the enemy approach. He ordered his force north.



True to Japanese doctrine of quality over quantity (they could never compete in numbers alone) the Imperial Japanese Navy built extremely powerful ships, fast, big and heavily armed. The 1930s saw the launching of a series of heavy cruisers and destroyers, eclipsing any being built elsewhere, as Japan flaunted and then abandoned treaty limitations. The three heavy cruisers used at Cape Esperance, however, were of a smaller type mounting only six main guns rather than the usual ten, but still armed with the deadly Long Lance torpedo.

At first the main strike force used in the confined waters around Guadalcanal was provided by heavy cruisers armed with 8" guns and 24" torpedoes. As the campaign wore on destroyers became the major element as the Tokyo Express made almost nightly runs bringing in troops and supplies. Most had five or six 5" guns, and more importantly, up to nine 24" torpedo tubes, though later some weapons were landed to carry more supplies or extra A.A. weapons.

The American and British-built Australian heavy cruisers, like the Japanese, also mounted 8" guns (the treaty limit for heavy cruisers) but point-blank clashes found their rate-of-fire to be too slow and the ships themselves vulnerable to Japanese 8" shells.

Useful additions to the US line-up were the Brooklyn class with fifteen 6" guns and the Atlanta class A.A. cruisers with sixteen 5" guns. Their rapid concentrated fire being particularly effective though the ships themselves were susceptible to underwater damage.

US cruisers did not carry torpedoes, and though their destroyers sported up to sixteen, the Mk. XV 21" torpedo was completely defective. Prone to running too deep it more often than not would fail to explode if it did hit a target.

By contrast the Japanese Type 93 Long Lance 24" torpedo that armed most of their ships was one of the most deadly weapons of World War Two. It propelled its big warhead nearly three times further, and much faster than anything the Allies had. Destroyer torpedo capability was further enhanced by a full set of reloads.

The Americans did have radar. Unfortunately the SC set was erratic at best and useless when used anywhere near land. Without the benefit of such cutting-edge technology the Japanese armed specially selected lookouts with giant binoculars. At night these continually out-performed the American radar. Eventually new ships equipped with the much improved SG radar enabled the Americans to decisively win the detection battle.


The Ships


Bombardment Group, Rear Admiral Goto.

6th Cruiser Division; Aoba - flagship, Furutaka and Kinugasa (six 8" guns and eight 24" torpedoes)

11th Destroyer Division; Fubuki and Hatsuyuki (six 5" guns, nine 24" torpedo tubes, but only three reloads).



Task Force 64, Rear Admiral Scott.

Cruisers; San Francisco - flagship (nine 8" guns, SC radar), Salt Lake City (ten 8" guns and SC radar), Helena and Boise (both fifteen 6" guns and SG radar).

Destroyer Squadron 12; Farenholt, Duncan, Laffey, Buchanan and McCalla (four 5" guns and ten 21" torpedoes).


The Battle

The night was very dark when the Tokyo Express reached the island. A slight Southeasterly breeze caused the waves to ruffle the beach as unloading began. Scott knew the enemy were near and that whoever detected their opponents first would have a decisive advantage. Floatplanes from two of the cruisers were prepared for launch and before long the catapult on San Francisco cracked and the plane shot along the rail. Seconds after launch, instead of struggling slowly into the black sky, the plane lost power and crashed into the sea bursting into flames. Scott knew that the enemy must be watching and must have seen the crash.

Lookouts on the Japanese flagship reported the sighting to Rear Admiral Goto. He dismissed it as troops signaling to his force from ashore, he was positive that his force had the seas around Guadalcanal to themselves.

The other US floatplane soon discovered the Tokyo Express, still unloading the reinforcements. Scott decided to head for the enemy and ordered his force to reverse course by turning to the Southwest. Just then Helena's radar detected the faint echo of ships 16 miles off the port beam to the Northwest.

The flagship signaled for all ships to reverse by head-of-column movement, i.e. in succession on reaching the same point thus keeping their line-ahead formation. The first three ships, all destroyers, performed the change of course one after the other but Scott's own ship, next in line, did not. Due to a misinterpretation of the order the helmsman instead made an immediate turn. Boise, following behind, unsure what to do, conformed to Navy practice and followed the flagship, as did succeeding ships. This left the van destroyers on their own between the bulk of their own force and the enemy.

Boise's radar now picked up a contact but Scott insisted this must be their own, out of position, destroyers. Simultaneously, lookouts on the Duncan and the lead Japanese ships made out the blurred silhouette of vessels six miles away. Duncan immediately charged at the left flank of the enemy but Goto hesitated.

Boise shook as her fifteen guns spewed out their first salvo. At such a short range, the radar directed guns could not miss and Goto's ship was swamped by 6" shells. Goto, mortally wounded, shouted out 'Bakayaro!' (stupid bastards!) thinking the ships of the Tokyo Express were firing on him by mistake. The other American ships opened up on the blazing Aoba and soon all her forward gun turrets were smashed. Scott, also fearing that his ships were firing at their own side, ordered 'Cease Firing', but most captains ignored him and carried on. Scott realised his error and signaled the cruisers to advance on the enemy.Battle Of Cape Esperance

The three hapless American destroyers, trapped between the opposing cruisers, did take hits from both sides. Duncan managed to fire off her torpedoes just before a succession of pounding hits sank her, the other two retired at speed past the cruisers.

Behind Goto, Furutaka's captain realised the enemy had managed to 'cross the T' of the Japanese formation (and were therefore able to bear every ship's broadside on each enemy ship in turn) so he swung to port before deciding to reverse course in an effort to cover the stricken flagship. His gallantry saved Aoba but doomed his own ship, Furutaka sank after 90 or more hits.

Scott reorganised his force by ordering lights to be shown. He than set off in pursuit of the Japanese who were now in full retreat. The Fubuki was cornered and reduced to a wreck but Boise's probing searchlights and flashing guns prompted Kinugasa to pour accurate shots at her. Heavy blows forward nearly caused a catastrophic magazine explosion, but ironically, severe underwater damage allowed the sea to flood in and douse the flames.

Fires were put out and darkness again swallowed up the ships. All shooting had petered out a little over 30 minutes after the start of the action. Aoba limped back to port but both Furutaka and Fubuki sank. All Japanese ships suffered heavy damage. The Tokyo Express was caught in daylight by Henderson's planes and two more destroyers went down. The Americans only lost one ship, the Duncan, but every ship had been badly hit and the whole force had to withdraw from Guadalcanal.

The decisive factor in the defeat of the Japanese was luck. Had Scott not chosen the most fortuitous of moments to reverse course he would have been attacked from the rear, with the Japanese 'crossing the T'.

Though the Japanese Navy made three more attempts to rid Guadalcanal of the enemy, they again failed to dislodge the Americans and were eventually forced to abandon the island.




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