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Thread: 2015 Solo Mission - Who Fired the First Shot.....? by Continentaleye

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    Default 2015 Solo Mission - Who Fired the First Shot.....? by Continentaleye

    2015 Solo Scenario “Who fired the first shot….?”

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    Its been nigh-on fifty years since that fateful day but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I’m writing of it now at the request of my grandson who is quite eager upon his enlistment in the Marines as I once was so many years ago. We had been at war with France for the better part of the century but when I first came aboard the HMS Superb, it was one of those rare times of peace between the two countries, albeit an uneasy peace. We had been on blockade duty off the Irish coast when the Superb was summoned back to England. Captain Jason Barlow, the Superb’s hard-driving captain, showed uncharacteristic excitement at the summons. We spent less than 24 hours in Plymouth, only long enough to replenish our water supply and the powder and ammunition we had expended during drills while on station off Ireland. Captain Barlow was the only one that went ashore and when he came back aboard, he immediately called the officers to his cabin, the door of which I had the honor of guarding.

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    Once outside the harbor, Captain Barlow assembled the company and announced, “Lads, we are at war once again with the French.” A great cheer broke out amongst the crew, but he held up his hand to silence us. “The sloop HMS Mercury has been sent to inform the fleet watching the French-Dutch coastline and we will join them as soon as the winds allow.”

    It wasn’t but a few days later that we came across two longboats of seamen from the Mercury adrift in the Channel. A French frigate had intercepted their ship before they could get word to the fleet. There was a new urgency to find our fleet and warn them.
    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    The following Tuesday we were doing reloading exercises on the foredeck when the lookout cried, “Strange sails two points on the starboard bow.” The Captain called beat to quarters and I climbed my way to my perch on the tops. In the distance I saw two lines of ships sailing parallel in our direction. At first, I thought they must be French since I knew England didn’t have a squadron that big anywhere in the area, but as we got closer I saw there were four French ships and the other three were our own! They were not firing at each other so I reckoned neither side knew we were at war yet. Captain Barlow set a course for our line but the lead French ship (which I later learned was the Commerce de Bordeaux) saw this is turned to intercept us.

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    I’d been a Marine long enough to know the flags Midshipman Gascone was hoisting signaled ‘Enemy In Sight’. And with that all hell broke loose. From my perch I could see that almost every ship fired their guns at almost the same time. Our own guns of the Superb raked the bow of the Bordeaux starting a fire on her decks. Captain Isnor of the Defense split the French line between the Bordeaux and the Aquilon firing on both French ships, but his ship paid a terrible price for the bold move.

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    The air was thick with smoke, but to our good fortune the wind was blowing it back into the French fleet. Captain Barlow ordered grapples away as we closed with the Bordeaux, the brave Captain leading the charge of boarders himself onto the French ship. I’m proud to say our Marines made the task that much easier by our withering musket fire. It did not take long before the French captain surrendered. But the battle was not through by any means and Captain Barlow yelled to cut the grapples as he was reboarding the Superb. As I reloaded my weapon I looked to the other ships. The Defense was on fire after a devasting broadside from the Aquilon raked her stern. In the distance the French flagship, the massive Imperial, made a lumbering turn to follow in the wake of the Aquilon. As for the rest of the battle, the smoke obscured my view.

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    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    As the Superb slowly broke free from the Bordeaux and got underway again, the Aquilon veered to larboard and crossed our bow. The sails around me were shredded and many of the sailors aloft were struck by the thunderous broadside. But even louder than the guns of the Aquilon was the full broadsides of the Imperial and the Neptune which ripped into our flagship Malta.

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    It was now our turn to pass between two French ships, and both unleashed their broadsides against us, almost in unison. But we gave better than we got and I was heartened to see fires spring up on the decks of both the Imperial and the Aquilon. From my vantage point I also saw the gruesome but welcome sight of the French Commodore’s head being separated from his body as one of our shots ripped through the quarterdeck of the Imperial.

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    We now closed with the stern of the Aquilon, no doubt Captain Barlow intended to board her as well, but as I exchanged fire with the French Marines on the Aquilon, I was suddenly and violently thrown into the air. It was as if the hand of the Almighty plucked me from the platform. Or perhaps it was the devil himself because as I shot into the air, I was scorched by a blast of hot air so hot that the cloth part of my uniform caught fire and I would have certainly burned to death if I had not landed in the water dousing the flames. I later learned that somehow a shot from the Neptune had found its way into the Superb’ magazine, causing a massive explosion that instantly reduced our proud ship to kindling wood. As I swam away from the burning debris and made my way towards the Bordeaux, I silently thanked my older brother James for teaching me how to swim as a child.

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    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    As I climbed onto the deck of the Bordeaux with help of the seamen from the Superb who had been lucky enough to have stayed onboard the French ship after her capture, I saw the Defense had struck her colors not far from us, her sailors manning the pumps in a frantic effort to keep her afloat. Just beyond her, the Vanguard and the Aquilon were converging on each other, their captains racing to cross the other’s bow first.

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    The Vanguard won, sinking the Aquilon; the price of failure for the French captain being high indeed. In the distance the Malta and the Neptune exchanged fire, but it appeared both ships were able to absorb the punishment.

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    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    Time seemed to standstill as the slow-moving ships maneuvered to gain some type of advantage over their foes. The Vanguard sought to support the Malta as the Neptune tried to do the same for her flagship.

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    The Imperial looked as if she was coming to retake the Bordeaux but a long shot from the Malta brought down another one of the French officers on the quarterdeck, probably the flag captain, and the ship sailed turned towards her attacker and through the debris of the Superb.

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    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    The Malta had to veer to larboard to avoid ramming the helpless Defense and in so doing was exposed to a devastating broadside from the Imperial that crossed her stern.

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    The Captain of the Neptune, no doubt emboldened by the success of his flagship, closed with the Vanguard and boarded the British ship. The fighting spirit of the Vanguards was short lived. With the crew of the Neptune swarming onto the Vanguards deck and the guns of the Imperial hammering her from the opposite side, Captain Pickering had no choice but to surrender.

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    The Imperial now focused her starboard guns on the Malta with catastrophic effect, burning the last remaining British ship in the fight to the waterline.

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    It was a dark day for England and even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time I had been lucky to survive the explosion on the Superb. I spent the next few years in a French prison and upon my release, I went right back to rejoin my beloved Marines. I was assigned to a new ship, a frigate, and sent to the Americas in the summer of 1813, but that’s a story for another time.
    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    Butcher’s Bill






    HMS Superb- sunk (exploded) Captain Barlow-KIA
    HMS Defense-Captured (Later scuttled by the French) Captain Isnor-Captured
    HMS Vanguard-Captured Captain Pickering-WIA, Captured
    HMS Malta- sunk Commodore Percy-MIA presumed drowned Captain Marlowe-Captured
    Attached Images Attached Images     
    Last edited by Bligh; 05-26-2021 at 12:58.
    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

  8. #8
    Admiral of the Blue.
    Baron
    England

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Notts
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    Name
    Rob

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    Butcher's Bill now righted for you Anthony.

    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Thanks Rob.
    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

  10. #10
    Admiral of the Blue.
    Baron
    England

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Notts
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    Name
    Rob

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    That sure was a mighty tussle Anthony, and I have never seen so many fires in an action before.
    Once again a Rep worthy effort. Well done sir, and we will brush over the outcome. Remember Admiral Byng.

    However this gun is not for execution but rep for a tale well told.

    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Thank you for the rep Rob! I was surprised by the number of fire chits as well, they never seem to come out in the scenarios when I can use heated shot.
    "It seems to be law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win."
    John Paul Jones

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    Another wonderful AAR, Anthony....I wasn't sure which side would win until the very end...and we'll just skip over the end part.

    Will send some to the French prison to console the poor marine.

  13. #13
    Midshipman
    UK

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    Name
    John

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    Your tales of derring do are explosive stuff and I wonder if your marine raconteur was the founding father of the marine flying corps.

    Another great story, very well told and a joy to read, Hopefully you're on a roll and we will see then next instalment at a picture house close by in the very near future.
    Cheers

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