Thursday, 21 July 2016

Battle of Lissa, 150 Years On

This week sees the 150th anniversary of the battle of Lissa, fought on 20th July  1866 between the navies of Italy and the Austro Hungarian empire. Lissa was the first and indeed only ironclad fleet action, and the sinking of one of the Italian ironclads (Re d'Italia) by ramming erroneously focussed naval tactics on ramming for many years afterwards.

To celebrate the anniversary a team from the Naval Wargames Society has been on the island this week, and yesterday on the anniversary we refought the battle. Using Stuart Barnes Watson's lovely collection of 1/1200 models we staged the battle in the utility room of the villa that has been NWS HQ (it was quite cool, plus the floor was a nice blue grey colour, although nothing like the bright, vibrant blues that we have been seeing in the seas around Port George recently.

The original plan had been to use my "Iron and Fire" rules (we used them for a previous NWS Lissa refight some years ago) but in the end we went for my "Broadside and  Ram" rules that form part of my recent Lissa publication. This was a good move as we fought through 25 turns in the afternoon before we had to close up.

The battle itself proved to be a reversal of history, and a black day for the Austrians. The ironclad division accounted for itself well and fought a slugfest with its Italian counterpart. Many ships on both sides were damaged but none conclusively apart from the Austrian Don Juan de Austria which caught fire and after some time blew up and sank. But to the North Persano's leading ironclads faced an oncoming tide of heavy Austrian wooden ships and faced them off with deadly fire (Nathan's gunnery rolls were generally excellent). Soon Kaiser and the other Austrian heavies were burning and shattered, and as losses mounted Teggethoff decided the day was lost and the Austrian fleet moved to withdraw.

The rules worked well, we fought the game to a concusion in 5 hours (which were punctuated by a number of breaks, so more like 3-4 hours of playing time)and the overall feel was just right.

So the first game drew to a close, and as I write we are looking to state a refight of 1811 Lissa before a tour of the island.