“Your Eminence, we have been boarded by the Be’gel. Our Fire Warriors cannot stem the green tide, and I fear that our time is short. We give our lives for the Tau’va.“—the last broadcast of A’leve Tah’chek, captain of the Toh’sa, before orks seized control of the Lar’shi’vre-class cruiser.
* * *
Except from “The Complete History of the Al’gel Campaign” by Aun’el Mor’kan Tal’is’ta, Ethereal caste, Dal’yth Sept, (689-776.M41)
Translation provided by Ordo Xenos (Authorization 783-2-BX-403)
Having finally seized the main continent of Al’gel II in mid-741.M41, Tau military leaders were confident that their conquest of the Al’gel System would gain momentum.
After all, the Tau had targeted the greatest stronghold of the orks when it invaded the system and, although it had taken more than five years, the seizure of this stronghold meant that the worst fighting was over.
At least, that was what Commander Broadsword and Admiral Lightning (ground and naval commanders, respectively) assumed.
What the two distinguished commanders failed to recognize, however, was that the fighting on Al’gel was arousing a blood lust among those orks in the rest of the Al’gel System. Although Tau warships constantly patrolled the system to limit ork in-system travel, the orks were cunning: In an asteroid belt at the edge of the system, a construction base had been established, and the orks were slowly building a sizable fleet of warships.
Already, Admiral Lightning had noted a growing number of sightings of ork vessels patrolling the outer system—and that those ships fled at the first sight of Tau ships.
He knew there was a potential threat that eventually he would need to address. He realized the time had come when a flotilla of Tau reinforcements arrived in the system and came under attack by a sizable ork fleet.
Battle at Al’gel V
6 889 741.M41
15:46—Having transitioned into the Al’gel System, Flotilla New Hope was passing near Al’gel V on its course to join the main Tau fleet over Al’gel II.
Tactical sensors reported energy readings near an asteroid field approximately 15 million kilometers away. The identity of this contact was quickly determined: an ork naval force consisting of one Terror-class cruiser, five Brute-class ram ships, four Onslaught-class attack ships, five Ravager-class attack ships, and five Savage-class gunships.
Given the Tau flotilla consisted of three Lar’shi’vre (Protector)-class cruisers and three Kir’shasvre (Castellan)-class heavy escorts, the Tau were outnumbered by a 3-to1 margin.
15:47—The ork force split into two groups. Nine smaller ships attempted to approach from one side of a small gaseous cloud that was in the path of the Tau force; the remaining 11 ork ships, including the Terror cruiser, accelerated on a collision course with the flotilla and fired more than a dozen torpedoes.
15:49—The commanding officer, Pol’te Fa’hir, was well aware that he was in command of six experimental and highly valuable warships—the latest in Tau ship design—and his orders were to test these vessels under combat conditions.
He also knew that getting them destroyed in the first few minutes of arriving in the Al’gel System, fighting a battle that he could not win, would be a disaster.
For that reason, he ordered the flotilla to turn to starboard and accelerate to full velocity. There was no way to avoid a fight with the orks to his front, but the change in direction meant that Commander Fa’hir’s ships would face a smaller number of xeno ships.
As the ships closed, the Tau fired. One Onslaught-class and two Savage-class gunships were in range and were destroyed by weapons batteries.
The flotilla contingent of bombers (Manta class) also was launched and managed to destroy a number of ork torpedoes in the flotilla’s path.
16:14—The Tau’s attempted to evade the orks was a sound, if imperfect, solution. The enemy closed. The greenskins targeted the Toh’sa, a Protector-class cruiser, and torpedoes and ork bombers caused significant damage, crippling the ship’s propulsion system and reducing its acceleration and maneuverability.
Other ork fire managed to weaken Tau shields on other ships but no further damage was done.
Although stricken by the damage done to the Toh’sa, Commander Fa’hir recognized that there was nothing he could do for his damaged cruiser. To attempt to screen the badly damaged ship with the rest of the flotilla would lead to further losses. He ordered Captain A’leve Tah’chek to fight to the last and then self-destruct.
With heavy heart, Fa’hir gave the “Ahead Full! order to his surviving ships and raced past the oncoming ork gunships in an attempt to flee.
16:43—The Toh’sa changed course and entered the nearby gaseous cloud, shut down its propulsion system, and attempted to “go dark” and avoid ork sensors. It was really the only hope that the cruiser had to escape destruction.
The attempt failed. A number of ork ships pursued the Toh’sa into the cloud. Ork sensors are poor but, at close range, they identified the Tau vessel. Three Brute ramships slammed into the Toh’sa and boarded it.
Although few details were broadcast in his final minutes Captain Tah’chek reported that his crew was unable to hold back the green tide that was advancing through his ship.
One can only imagine the slaughter as two-meter-tall, heavily muscled orks engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the slim and fragile-boned Air Caste crew of the doomed cruiser. What is clear is that Captain Tah’check was unable to destroy his ship before the orks overwhelmed his crew.
The vessel was seized by the orks.
This was not the only reverse for the Tau. Just as Commander Fa’hir’s ships were about to escape, an additional number of ork gunships, as well as the Terror cruiser, managed to get in range of the fleeing Tau.
With surprisingly accurate fire, the orks targeted a second Protector-class cruiser and left it a floating hulk. Again, Commander Fa’hir was forced to abandon another crew to its doom.
The Tau achieved some small revenge for this loss: Another Savage- and Onslaught-class gunship were destroyed in the fighting. After that, the Tau accelerated out of firing range, with the orks in pursuit.
18:32—Ork ships pursued the fleeing Tau flotilla for nearly two more hours, but as the Tau warships gradually pulled away, the xenos gave up the chase and turned back to Al’gel V.
Admiral Lightning ordered his fleet to Al’gel V within minutes of receiving Flotilla New Hope’s distress signal.
Intercepting the flotilla many hours later, he ordered six ships to accompany the battered survivors to Al’gel II, and the rest of the fleet continued toward Al’gel V.
When the fleet arrived, the ork warships were gone—as were the remains of the two stricken Tau cruisers. It is believed that the orks hauled the vessels away with tractor beams, with the intent of scavenging them for their own use.
TheGM: Ouch! I played the Tau, and I had the latest in Tau warship technology (Forge World ships). Alas, I deployed poorly. When my turn came, I realized I could not turn and keep my distance from the orks, so I gave The Gaffer an opportunity to do what orks do best: fight up close and personal.
I was surprised by the number of torpedoes the orks could launch, but I was not surprised that his ships didn’t hesitate to board my ships at the first opportunity.
If I hadn’t lost that second cruiser, I could have distanced myself from the orks and turned for another round of fighting. But with two of my three cruisers gone, there was no way I was going to win.
These were the best Tau warships in the fleet—so experimental that most of the Imperial Navy will not become aware of their existence for more than a century to come. (The Corvus Cluster is considered a backwater region of the Imperium, and the whole area could be wiped out by xenos or Chaos, and no one would likely notice.)
So, given the value of my prototype ships (and the fact that I didn’t want to be humiliated by The Gaffer), I led my much-reduced command to safety. (ie. We ran for our lives.)
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Naval Battles