WWI Naval Battle – Copenhagen 1914

Copenhagen the verb that is. In May 1914 the British finally accept Admiral Fisher’s suggestions (made in 1904 and 1908) to preemptively attack the German fleet in the naval base at Wilhelmshaven. A routine flight by the German Navy’s only dirigible, the L 3, spots the British in the North Sea in time for the German fleet to sortie.

Visibility was 14,000 yards. Wind was westerly at 8 knots and the seastate was 2.

Status at the end of the game: Cope-end-status

Damage output summary: Cope-damage

Plot: Cope-plot

Plot showing flotilla torpedo attacks: Cope-plot-flot


Examining only the battleship action, the British hit rate was 9.3% and the German hit rate was 14.1%. This difference was the result of the westerly wind blowing the gun and funnel smoke in front of the British line, while the German smoke was blown to the disengaged side. The British needed the guidance in the Grand Fleet Battle Orders (~ May 1916):

Weather …The leeward position, with the wind on the engaged bow, is usually the better … the main consideration is that of being in a position where the gun and funnel smoke from our own ships do not interfere with gunlaying… [page 15]

I don’t know if there was any such guidance in May of 1914.

The British suffered gun losses due to 29 turret face penetrations. Four British battleships were lost to explosions as a result of turret fires reaching the magazines. Turret hits represented 14.7% of all hits on British ships and 12.7% of all hits on German ships. These numbers are consistent with the algorithms. The consequences (for the British) of turret hits are so significant that the algorithms for turret face hits and penetrations will be elaborated in future code modifications. For example, the probability of a turret hit for flat trajectory shells will be examined, and the curvature of British turret faces might need to be modeled.

The strategic lesson is that a preemptive attack should have been considered at an earlier date, ideally before the Germans developed effective AP shells.

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