30 still afloat. Never have ship crews been happier to see port.
The ability of the second sub flotilla to attack HX.9 made a significant difference here along with the more deadly nature of the U-boats.
After a brief overnight gale, weather improves all the way to Cloudy as day breaks. Aircraft on both sides are active, including the entire Stringbag complement of Furious flying ASW, but neither side turns anything up. (My subs are now out of range of his aircraft.) Nothing much happens – I continue refueling/refitting ships in Greenock and Rosyth, angle TF’s over towards Norway, and realize that the French Strasbourg group is going to have to slow to “1” until they can reach Scapa Flow. (This might make them easier for U-Boats to catch, but at least there are plenty of DD’s in the TF.) I also egress a group of four CL’s from Rosyth, to which I’ll add other light ships as they become ready and catch up.
The last daylight turn worsens to rain, but my Stringbags and seaplanes all land safely. As do the Hudsons, Blenheims and Beauforts from Aldergrove, which transferred in several groups to Sullom Voe, in the Shetlands. If tomorrow brings good flying weather, I’ll have plenty of searchers to find the potential Bremen TF if it slips past my guard, and strike aircraft if needed.
Naturally, weather worsens to Squall in Turn 40, so rain and night envelop the area just as the unknown TF reaches the vicinity of my lower sub groups. However, in Turn 41 three of my subs (both English and one French) are able to contact the “enemy,” which turns out to be another one of those damn Norwegian freighters. Time to start sending my TF’s back to Rosyth. They can reach port and still make it back out in time to engage any new enemy from the north by the time it reaches the Shetlands-Norway choke point.
The squall weather continues into the following day, so aerial operations are still risky.
However, this becomes moot when Jim is able to ease Scharnhorst into Wilhelmshaven (as he announces.) He also decides to send his light ships home, his subs closer to home, and not to bring Bremen home anytime soon. He gives me the option of continuing to hunt for subs, or totaling up. With my chance of sinking subs remote at best, and not wanting to leave my ships in prolonged exposure to U-Boats, I agree we’ve gone about as far as we can. Like two battered and weary boxers, our navies return to port to await the next round.
Woo hoo! The Scharnhorst makes it home safe!
I wound up with a total of 164 VP’s – 83 for sinking Gneisenau, 21 for damage to Scharnhorst, 2 for sinking an old U-Boat, 6 for one step of German aircraft lost to