Orders from the Admiralty were clear, but far from straightforward: protect the small British expeditionary force resupplying and repairing off Padang, Sumatra.
The Royal Australian navy was called into service, a fleet dispatched to Sulawesi was never intended to engage, but rather draw the attention of any of the Empire of the Blazing Sun who might be watching the region from their bases in Papua.
Another fleet was dispatched to patrol the waters south of Sumatra, as the prying eyes of the Covenant of Antarctica were a ceaseless and an ever-present threat.
As this second force took in water off Christmas island word from the Natives sparked and stirred excitement; green lit ghosts had been witnessed far out to sea, flicking and whipping in the great distance only the night before. The Sea was angry, it was said.
It seemed on first blush that from the size of both forces it would be a chess like skirmish, but such idle thoughts would bely the truth of what would eventuate. The Australian admirals gave orders that the Covenant flag ship be taken at all costs, we had to know, they said, what the Covenant did...
The Australian fleet, arriving spread out over such a distance was too disparate to allow for a concentrated effort, and in a stroke of poor luck the flagship of the Covenant was tucked well away from the Tasmania class Sub Tenders and their lethal cargo of Crocodile Attack subs, the Australians best chance of achieving their goal.
Hoping to cause enough damage to cripple, but not destroy the Aristotle (the Covenant flagship), the two Victoria class Gunships move to a more flexible position. Whether the Aristotle continued in its path or feigned and made a turn, they should be able to heave-to and have her in their sights. Coupled with the might of the Cerberus pocket Battleship they should be able to inflict enough damage to weaken her for boarding. The only fly in the ointment was the fact that the attack subs had been deployed well away from the prospective conflict.
Focussing their attention on the gunships several torpedo barrages from the fast moving Diogenes frigates managed to inflict some damage.
The battle around the Victoria Gunships became a turning point, with the Covenants Ptolemy bombers, the Diogenes frigates and a wave of dive bombers all wreaking havoc.
Damage was heavy both sides, but the use of mines made this damage more widespread than focussed, which left both Victoria class gunships seriously damaged.
While the middle and right of the battle was give and take, the Tasmania class sub tenders came under fire from a squadron of Plato cruisers, a lucky hit on the ammunition supplies sent one to the sea floor while the shrapnel and concussive force of its demise left the other Tasmania crippled.
In the end the Australia fleet took a beating. While able to land enough fire on the Aristotle to basically cripple it, they were seriously impacted by a spread out deployment and apt use of flanking attacks from faster vessels. While a solid fight, the Australians limped away the battered party... taking only small solace in the fact that a lucky hit toward the end managed to sink the Aristotle... sink without capturing was a lesser success, but far better that than no damage at all!
This was a very fun battle to play out. 600 points a side, two players on each side... a lot of fun. The magazine explosion and the sinking of the Aristotle were highlights, but the use of mines against the Victoria class gunships was also highly successful.
Devastating ordnance is exactly what it says on the shell casing: devastating! In one barrage the Aussies managed a whopping 23 hits on the Aristotle... not dice, but hits. And it was moments like that and the explosion of the Tasmania that make the game memorable and fun - the outrageous swings of fortune, of fortune and calamity.