It is the 9th of June 1900. The upsurge in violence associated with the rise of the Boxer Movement in China has meant a gradual build up of forces by the various Powers who wish to gain influence at the expense of the ailing Manchu Regime.
At the point of entry at the mouth of the Pei Ho River, it has been a tense standoff; gunboats, transports and shallow draught vessels have gingerly threaded their way under the guns of the Taku Forts, wary of the private sympathies of the Chinese Imperial Troops who man them.
Luckily, in line with the public stance of their government, they have remained aloof, and the landing of troops bound for Tientsin and beyond, has so far gone on unhindered. The Boxers are to all intents and purposes still regarded as 'rebels'.
However, the tide may very well be turning against the Allied Powers, with the notoriously anti-foreign Prince Tuan having replaced the moderate Prince Chi'ing as Foreign Secretary, the noose has been tightening around the Foreign Legations at Peking.
300 or so reinforcements, both marines and sailors, have arrived there by rail on the 31st may, bolstering any likely defence, but perhaps this show of strength has done as much to heighten the tension as to calm it:
"The arrogance of these barbarians, trying to threaten the Imperial Court itself!".
Insistent messages, sent by the local Commander at Taku to the Imperial government, stating that he could prevent further Foreign intrusions by closing the mouth of the Pei-Ho, have finally received the following enigmatic reply:
"The Fox, when barred from the Hen House, is no longer a Fox...."
The Commander knows that the large ships of the Fleet cannot pass the barrier of the sandbank formed by the Taku Bar, and although the foreign navies posses some heavy calibre guns, if he can dissuade them from closing with the Forts, then landings up the Pei-Ho at Tangku will become impossible, and Tientsin and the Legations will be effectively cut off.
A strike force is assembled, made up of the four modern Torpedo Boat Destroyers, so kindly provided by the shipyards of Germany, of the Hai-Hola class, in addition to two Kwantung Junks to act as a deceptive screen on the approach:
From Wu Sung, to the South, a further group, led by the Protected Cruiser the Hai Tien, will be in position by dawn:
Finally, already a wolf amongst the flock, the Hai Yung lays at anchor a few cable lengths to the rear of the Allied Fleet, ostensibly to protect the interests of the central government, she will lead the surprise attack on the unsuspecting Foreign Devils:
At 05:00 hours, HMS Aurora, an Orlando Class Cruiser, reports the approach of two apparently friendly Junks, traders perhaps? The surprise attack has begun!
So that is the set up for the first part for the 55 Days at Sea campaign, a 'what if' scenario to mirror the actual historical combats that took place on land, with a spotlight on the naval elements that were in place in 1900. As you can see in the photos, the trusty old blue nylon tarpaulin is yet to be replaced by a nice sea scape mat, but once its replacement has arrived, I intend to do a run through using the Damn Battleships Again! ruleset. So stay tuned for an After Action Report in the near future.
Now just a quick look at some of the WTJ Naval ships seen in their unpainted state in my last post on this subject: The German Gefion:
The Russian Bobre:
And just for fun, the Spanish WTJ Lepanto in the company of Navwar's battleship Pelayo: