Silent Hunter III Gibraltar Scenario

Gibraltar is the fourth of 10 single player scenarios available in the game. It takes place in December 1941 and is based on the deployment of a U-Boat force to establish a combat presence in the Mediterranean Sea. This was a contentious allocation of wartime resources that met resistance from top commanders such as Karl Dönitz, who personally saw the effort as a distraction to the greater mission – sinking Allied merchant shipping in order to cripple Britain.

This is the first single player mission to consist of two primary objectives (and oddly enough no secondary objectives). The mission is basically get through the Strait of Gibraltar (preferably alive) and make it to a specific grid reference, then travel onward to the Axis naval base at La Spezia, Italy. If ever there were a scenario that begged for a “sink X number of tonnage” objective, this would be it.

The player has the option to make the transit and dock with all torpedoes never having been touched. In my humble opinion as a scenario designer this was a missed opportunity. Throwing a secondary objective in such as sinking 5,000 tons of merchant shipping could have really spiced things up and made the absolutely dreadful trek to the coast of Italy more bearable. Sure, I can go off hunting kills on my own but it is more intriguing when it is required and not merely a personal preference.

There is a long way to go from where my vessel is starting to where it needs to be, and in between are a great number of British warships looking for an easy kill.

I am captaining the U-96, a Type VII-C U-Boat that in real life was sunk by a US bombing raid on the submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven on March 30, 1945. This was the ship and the event that formed the basis of the short story The Oak-Leaves Patrol as well as the movie Das Boot. In terms of the video game and this specific scenario, it was just the sub that came up with the default selection that I went with. 

Considering that no U-Boat that made it into the Mediterranean Sea ever left, it appears to be a paradox that the ship I am piloting was never actually there.

The first thing I do is to order Ahead Full and then plot a course directly for the shore of the African coast (trying to make this journey straight through the middle of the passage is virtual suicide). I then take all presently nonessential personnel and move them to quarters, and then finally set the Watch Officer.

I am grateful to see that my ship is outfitted with five TII (G7e) electric torpedoes which leave no visible wake on the surface. While their range is substantially less than that of the gas/steam torpedo, it is more reliable overall.

While approaching the coast of Africa at dusk, the watch spots a British V&W Destroyer and I immediately order a dive to periscope depth.

These ships could hunt and kill U-Boats quite effectively and were a significant contributing factor to the multitude of wrecks at the bottom of the ocean.

My strategy is to not engage enemy combatants, but to run and hide as I creep along the shoreline.

I never said this was going to be easy: here a surface patrol craft jumps me along the coast, firing off rounds as we submerge.

With not much room to maneuver at such shallow depths I delicately move forward while the enemy vessel hunts me relentless with searchlights and machineguns from above.

Although not action packed, this encounter was actually quite atmospheric.

Things really get hairy when support arrives and paints the sky with flares and punches holes in the water with depth charges. I keep my cool and focus on the task at hand, quietly slipping away (the orange circle in the bottom right).

The brown at the bottom is the floor of the sea bed as I run at periscope depth along the coast. A destroyer could ram me here quite easily and obliterate the U-Boat. At least my crew wouldn’t have too far to swim to the surface to be cut down by automatic weapons.

I am running with a higher difficulty setting than the stock normal configuration. This includes limited batteries, compressed air, oxygen, and fuel. The transit through the strait is forcing me to run on the surface at night only (and even then needing to dive from time to time in order to avoid destruction). This is a dance between having enough resources to propel the boat towards the primary objective and that of basic crew survival.

The dawn breaks along the coastline as I run submerged.

This destroyer was sitting in one of the coves appearing to be an easy kill; however I decided not to engage and went on about my business.

Rounding the tip of Ceuta, Spain I have the navigator plot a course to the required grid reference to complete one of the two primary objectives: as all of the red line sonar contacts indicate enemy vessels, I am in no way out of danger.

There are still plenty of threats on the surface that could ruin my day.

I finally am able to surface the boat and post a watch crew, and would run on top of the waves for the remainder of the journey.

While one could think that getting through the Strait of Gibraltar would be the hardest part of the scenario, it was actually the trip to La Spezia that would grind away at my patience (thank goodness for time compression).

While underway I had the crew reload the aft torpedo (I had fired it in haste at the PT boat earlier in the mission), as well as move the external reserve to the aft reserve compartment.

While running on the surface all the way to Italy, we would never see a single warship or airplane.

There were several map contact updates, but they were not aligned in an optimal approach. At this point I was growing frustrated with the monotony of the scenario and just wanted to dock the boat.

Finally we make it to the naval base and complete the final objective of the mission.

While command might be pissed that I didn’t sink any merchant or combat vessels, I did accomplish the objectives of the mission and brought both my crew and boat to shore with no damage.

After-action Report

Ending this scenario on the surface avoids the “U-Boat lost” message of the previous single player missions.

Post Mortem

This scenario was a disappointment to me in that it was a challenge at the beginning, but then a complete drag through the middle and end. As mentioned previously it could have substantially benefitted from a secondary objective of sinking a specified amount of tonnage, however sadly this was not the case and the mission suffered considerably as a result.

This mission was played on 7/22/15 on a Windows 7 machine.

1 comment:

  1. Fun fact: in a nod to the German U-boat film Das Boot, the player commands the U-96 in the Gibraltar mission.


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